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Loyalty Comes From Commitment to Customers and Keeping Promises

January 28, 2010

The competitive nature of today’s world can be intimidating to the small business owner.  If a competitor cuts prices or offers other incentives, you may feel tempted to do the same thing in order to hold on to your customers, even if it risks the stability of your business. 

Though cost is important to customers today, it is but one component of a larger, more important attribute — value — created by the benefits you offer.  If your business provides value through service, responsiveness, and going the “extra mile,” your customers will respond with loyalty, regardless of what your competition does. 

Building loyalty through value is something small business owners have been good at for centuries because they are better able to cultivate relationships with their customers.  They focus not just on selling to them, but also keeping them.  That stability is more efficient and predictable for everyone involved. 

Building loyalty is not a marketing matter, so don’t look there for help. To foster customer loyalty, a small business needs a strategy that keeps patrons coming back. It starts with basics that are sometimes overlooked. Thanking customers for their business, for example, goes a long way. But try going beyond a few spoken words. Write some thank you notes and letters. Make them personal and sincere. Just let them know you appreciate their business. Most of all – do what you say you will do … keep your promises. 

Creating value will help boost loyalty. Ask customers if there is anything else you could be doing for them. Then, after they tell you, do it.  When a customer leaves, you should consider it unacceptable. Find out why it happened and then work to prevent it from happening again.  

Remember, too, that your customers’ needs are always changing, and that they may find attributes or “extras” in other business that put your service elements at a disadvantage.  Take ease of access, for example.  Make sure all your touch points— your phones, Web site, store layout, etc.—operates with your customer’s needs in mind.  Visiting competitors’ locations and sites may alert you to areas where you may be behind, and spark ideas for making a good service or process even better.  If your customers like what they find at your business, they’ll keep coming back for more. 

To learn more about generating customer loyalty for your small business, contact Lancaster SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 50 volunteer mentors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners. Call us at 717-397-3092 or find us online at www.scorelancaster.org.

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