We have always been convinced of the case for building a loyal customer base. Many of our own clients have been with us for over a decade and we have seen how gradual improvements in the loyalty of their own customers has improved retention and created confidence. Their customers have become advocates of those businesses with a direct impact on bottom line profitability.
In the olden days, by this I mean ten-years or so ago, the sales process tended to be very linear: 1. Assess market size; 2. Segment and create the right messages; 3. ‘Push’ the information through various channels - advertising, telemarketing, sales visits; 4. Make the sale.
The potential customer would then be able to make their (rational) purchasing decision based on the information available from the supplier.
That was then. The world has now changed.
In the B2B environment, the supplier-customer boundary is blurring and the relationships have switched.
Potential customers know what they want. They have identified their need and are more likely to have investigated their possible suppliers. They can easily find the information they need to make their own decisions - not always from the supplier themselves – plenty of sites offer independent customer reviews and there are lots of commentators ready to report bad customer experience. The selection - or rejection - of your product or service may have taken place without you even knowing it.
Success today must therefore be built around the relationship with your customers. The traditional supplier-customer model no longer applies.
Which brings us onto customer loyalty. We see today’s successful companies as those who focus on their customer relationships. Building loyalty with existing customers brings knowledge and benefits. It also mitigates the risk of losing those clients – unexpectedly.
Our clients who have built a loyal customer base regularly speak to their clients – and not just through customer surveys. They aim to move up the ‘customer loyalty staircase’ to become a Trusted Advisor whereby they work in partnership with their clients, they are integrated with their requirements and are looked to first when planning new products and services.
And please notice that I have not referred to customer satisfaction. While customer satisfaction is is important. A satisfied customers is not necessarily a loyal one. A loyal customer, however, is definitely a satisfied one.
Today’s successful companies understand this and place the customer at the heart of their activities – looking at themselves outside-in rather than inside-out.