How do you maintain a customer for life?

Creating life-long customers

How do you maintain a customer for life? Although this should be every company’s goal, a realist might say there is no such thing. Regardless of what you believe, always strive to build loyalty, so your customers always think of your company first when they have needs that you can fulfill. 

Even though you may have trimmed back on services, that does not mean you can’t refine and enhance relationships with your existing customers. There are still many ways you can exceed customer expectations and let them know how much you value their business. 

Customer satisfaction is no longer good enough. A Harvard Business Review study indicated that 80 percent of all customers who left for a competitor report being “satisfied” with the previous company. In as much, of those who reported being loyal, 97% became life-long customers.

There are many businesses with a customer satisfaction model, but satisfaction alone will not result in life-long customers that will passionately support your company and cheerfully recommend it to others. 

Look at it from a numbers point of view. Finding out the value of a customer, say over one year, will give you the best argument to develop long term relationships. One way of calculating it would be to determine the average invoice amount multiplied by the number of times customers return to your place of business in a year. Numbers are stunning. Just do the maths with your grocery store: $250 x 52 weeks = $13,000 without extras! Did you know that you were worth this much to them? Now, if they value your patronage, that’s another thing.

Here are a few of the many things you can do to help build that kind of loyalty. You will notice that, other than time, few additional resources are necessary to execute these tasks. 

Focus on the relationship

Get to know the customers and their needs. Develop a relationship so that it’s more than business. Of course, the method used would vary from an industry to another. For example, in some industries one would learn about the customers’ hobbies, families and interests, so they think of them as a friend who they enjoy working with and not just a business partner. Other companies would use consumer surveys to find out some information.

Go above and beyond

What are you doing to exceed expectations and wow customers? Simple things such as a follow-up calls or thank you notes can make all the difference. When I was in Phoenix earlier this year, I was buying sparkling water as we had some guests over. I was short in cash (not much, 24 cents!) and no credit cards. I had three large bottles in my hand and was ready to leave one with the cashier. She said: “How much short are you? 24 cents? That’s ok, this one’s on me!” and she let me go with the three bottles. For sure, it wasn’t much and the grocery store would not go under with that, but this extra step made quite a difference…I’m now a life-long customer!

Go visit the customer

Many relationships today are simply over the phone or via e-mail. Where appropriate, take the time to go to the customer’s site, even when you don’t have anything to sell or rent. They will appreciate that you took the time to visit. Building a life-long customer is not a quick or easy process. It requires a commitment, culture and strategy. This process must be embraced by all of your employees so that customers know they come first and are more than a piece of business. 

There are few things in business as gratifying as a loyal, life-long customer — knowing that they personally care for you and care for your business. Don’t stop at building just a satisfied customer base…WOW them!

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