It’s about to be all change in the Cooper household.
My husband is retiring this Friday.
I have mixed feelings about this; on the one hand it gives much more flexibility to do things together, but as I spend much of my working week working from home I also realise this is going to be a huge distraction!
In fact this week I’ve already been seduced into going for a lovely long walk in the beautiful sunshine at Devil’s Punchbowl. I can see my blog post and articles getting fewer and further between!
This change in circumstances has made me think about customers and how changes can impact their long-term loyalty.
It’s all too easy to assume that someone’s change in circumstances means that they’ll no longer remain a customer. That might well be the case if we don’t treat them any differently or we remain rigid in what we offer. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Let me give you couple of examples relevant to my husband.
He is a keen sailor but currently only gets to his sailing club at weekends. He’s also up to now only ever raced (what I consider to be) very sporty boats, and not necessarily suited to the over 60s! Does this mean that he won’t be going sailing anymore? Absolutely not. But what it has meant is he’s changing the class of boat he sails and instead of just sailing weekends he’ll now sail in the week too. So in fact has effectively become a better customer than he was before.
For the past 30 years he’s had a company car. Various makes and models including Peugeots, Audis, Volvos and BMWs. 30 years. That’s given him a lot of opportunity to work out who gives him the best customer experience. And now it’s down to him to foot the bill out of his own pocket naturally he’s chosen the make and dealer that looked after him the best, offered the best value and created the most trust.
So what can we learn from this for building customer loyalty?
Never assume customers will forget poor treatment or a poor customer experience. Most customers have long memories! A poor experience some years ago with one of the main car dealerships made us vow never to buy a car from them. At the time as a company car driver, the sales team simply weren’t interested as they weren’t personally going to benefit. The result was a damaged reputation for the whole brand. And I bet if we walked into that same showroom today with £30k to spend on a private purchase they’d probably want to bite our hand off…. Too late, the damage is done.
Don’t assume customers will never want to make a second or third purchase. As you’d expect all Clive’s home office kit will be returned to his employer. This means new phone, computer, printer etc, but starting from scratch to find where to buy. Can the same be said for any of your customers? Once they’ve bought once do we forget all about them? Stay on their radar so when the time comes for a repeat purchase you’re still front of mind.
Customers’ priorities, expectations and needs change. How well do you adapt? Engage with them and listen to what they want. I’m not saying you need to be all things to all men, but if you’ve already got their loyalty and trust, don’t throw that all away; be receptive to changing demands. What’s changed in their world that’s shifted their priorities, re defined what they want, altered how they want it, or influenced when they want it.
Levels of influence and buying authority change too. Someone who might not be in a buyer today might be your perfect customer of tomorrow. And of course these days everyone has the opportunity to influence others through the power of social media. So treat everyone with the same respect, whether it’s a customer’s receptionist, a passing pedestrian asking for directions or a student asking for some help with their studies. That scene in Pretty Women comes to mind just now, when Julia Roberts, shopping in hand returns to the store where she’s been snubbed by the shop assistants, highlighting their ‘Big Mistake!’
Timing is everything. Your services or products need to be available at a time that suits your customers, not just when it suits you. Having your team go for lunch at your busiest time of day, not opening till 9 when your customers want to call you at 8, getting back to customers when you promise, keeping them informed of progress. Being without a car for 3 months simply wasn’t an option, nor was keeping the company car. So knowing a delivery date was important. If you can’t come up the goods to meet the customer’s deadlines say so. If you can, give them the confidence you can and the reassurance you will.
In summary: Trust takes time to establish, but a second to lose. Be consistent with your customers, even when things change.