Small Business Advice

Four steps to building customer loyalty

Charlotte Harwood

Our top tips on how to retain customers and build loyalty to your business.

If there's one thing you hear time and time again in the world of small business, it's that your customers are the lifeblood of your venture. 'The customer is king' and 'the customer is always right' are phrases we've all come across, but far from meaningless clichés, they're actually key to your success.

But while a lot of importance is placed on gaining new customers, it's actually your existing customers that you should focus on first and foremost. After all, it's far easier (and not to mention cheaper) to sell to customers you already have than it is to find and sell to new ones. So how do you go about making sure that your customers stay loyal to your business?

Give them a reason to love you

We all have brands that we turn to when we want a specific thing, so think about what it is that makes those brands synonymous with the products or services you're after. More often than not, it's great customer service that keeps customers going back, so do whatever you can to go above and beyond expectations. Show your customers that you care, offer them an experience that they just won't get from a chain store, and follow up all inquiries with a 'thank you' – a little really does go a long way.

Set up a loyalty reward scheme

Don't think that loyalty reward schemes are reserved only for household names. Small businesses can benefit just as much – if not more – from a well thought out rewards system. And it doesn't have to be complex either. Think about those coffee chains that give you a stamp for every beverage you buy, so that once your card is full you get one on the house. People love to get something for nothing, and giving something away for free is a basic but effective way of ensuring repeat custom. You could even approach this from another angle, whereby a customer is required to spend, say, £100 on your business in order to get a reward. The choice is yours.

Focus on making your customer service the best

You could sell the best quality products or offer an in-demand service, but if your customer service is poor then you'll lose customers in the blink of an eye. So invest the time to train your staff how to offer the best customer service around: make sure they know how to communicate clearly and politely, how to deal with telephone calls, and how to effectively respond to any unhappy clients or complaints.

Exceed expectations whenever you can

One of the most effective ways of retaining customers is to make them feel that you've gone out of your way for them. So if, for instance, you give a customer a delivery date of two weeks, aim to get it to them within one week. Keep them in the loop at every step, so that they know exactly what is happening with their order. And keep your promises – people are quick to leave negative feedback if things don't go their way.

For more tips and information, check out the Sales and Marketing section of the Biz Hub