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Just because a customer spends a lot of money with you doesn’t mean she’s loyal. In a fascinating study released in 2014, the advisory firm McKinsey & Company found that your best customers—those who spend the most with your company—are, in fact, not loyal at all. Even when these customers spend a lot with your company, they’re also buying from your competitors.

The fleeting nature of loyalty is the very topic of the e-book How to Keep Your Customers From Cheating on You. Authored by Tyler Douglas, chief sales and marketing officer at Vision Critical, this resource provides actionable tips on proven ways of building an authentic connection to customers and driving long-term loyalty in the process.

The e-book also features insight from customer loyalty experts, who each shared three tips on how to attract—and retain—loyal customers. Here’s a sneak peek—a list of 10 of our favorite customer loyalty tips from thought leaders featured in the e-book.

  1. Treat customers as real people.

Given the amount of customer data available today, companies sometimes forget that behind that data is a real person. Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert and author of The Amazement Revolution, says that needs to change. Customers, after all, are more than the trail of their data—they aren’t just numbers and shouldn’t be treated as such.

“There is a big difference between satisfied customers and loyal customers,” explains Hyken. “Satisfactory is a rating and loyalty is an emotion.”

Tweet this!"There is a big difference between satisfied customers and loyal customers" - @Hyken (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

To build that emotional connection, Hyken says you must make customers feel special and show appreciation for their business.

  1. Aim for the heart.

Ben Motteram, principal of the consulting firm CXpert, echoes Hyken’s advice, saying that a genuine connection with customers unlocks loyalty.

“Appealing to emotions can be as simple as remembering what your regular customers order.” Explains Motteram, “Anticipate their next need, do something that will surprise and/or delight them, be sure to smile, and make your interaction about more than just the business transaction.”

Tweet this!"Appealing to emotions can be as simple as remembering what your regular customers order" - @CXpert (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

  1. Design with intention.

Be intentional about the experience you provide customers. Jeannie Walters, founder of customer experience consulting firm 360Connext, recommends using a classic customer experience tool to do that: the customer journey map.

“The best companies design the experience for loyal customers,” explains Walters. “If you don’t know what kind of experience you want them to have, they will have the default experience, which typically includes neglect!”

Tweet this!"The best companies design the experience for loyal customers" - @jeanniecw (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

Walters recommends charting and designing your customers’ experience on key milestones. “Map out the experience you want customers to have after 30 days, 90 days, six months, one year, five years, etc.”

  1. Don’t ignore your own people.

As you map out the customer experience, consider the role of your own workforce in the process. Your company’s corporate culture plays an important part in becoming truly customer-centric. An engaged workforce is required to delivering a seamless customer experience.

That’s why, according to Jeanne Bliss, founder of Customer Bliss and a pioneer of the chief customer officer role, you need to empower your own employees to deliver a great experience.

“Honor the people who serve your customers,” Bliss says. “Enable heroes, versus requiring heroics.”

Tweet this!"Honor the people who serve your customers. Enable heroes, versus requiring heroics." - @jeannebliss (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

  1. Eliminate pain points.

As you execute customer mapping, you need to identify and fix kinks in the customer journey. You can’t expect customers to be loyal if their experience is plagued with headaches.

Adam Toporek, customer retention expert and author of Be Your Customer’s Hero, says delivering a hassle-free experience is key, adding that “high effort experiences make customers more disloyal.”

Tweet this!"Make sure your customer experience is as hassle-free as possible. High effort experiences make customers more disloyal" - @adamtoporek (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

To identify pain points, talk to frontline staff to get a sense of the issues they hear from customers. Engaging directly with customers is also critical to identifying blind spots that even your own people may not be aware of. To get full context on customer experience, tap into both quantitative and qualitative data. Using multiple sources of customer intelligence—including big data, insight communities, NPS and CRM data—will provide a fuller picture than relying on just one customer loyalty metric.

  1. Evaluate your pricing strategy.

Customers want value, but they’re not necessarily looking for what’s cheapest in the market. “Whether price is high or low is not as relevant as the consumer perception of value,” says Ian Golding, a certified customer experience professional and customer experience specialist.

That said, it’s important to evaluate the true value of your product or service and make sure you’re not overcharging customers. Explains Golding, “We are living in a society where disposable incomes are dropping and so price is a significant factor in purchase decision-making. Organizations must ensure that they consider pricing and competitiveness from a value perspective.”

Tweet this!"Organizations must ensure that they consider pricing and competitiveness from a value perspective" - @ijgolding (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

  1. Be useful.

Producing compelling, killer content isn’t just a marketing challenge—it’s also a customer experience driver. According to Ted Rubin, a social marketing strategist and the acting CMO of Brand Innovators, marketing content can drive loyalty if it’s informed by customer needs.

“Effective customer loyalty management starts with contextual content your audience values,” Rubin tells us. “Who better than customer service representatives to provide firsthand feedback of the primary questions and issues they hear about every day?”

Tweet this!"Effective customer loyalty management starts with contextual content your audience values" - @TedRubin (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

  1. Keep your word.

Information is now at the fingertips of your customers, so you can’t afford to say one thing and do something else. Customers, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, can see through inauthentic marketing messages and won’t hesitate to call out brands that don’t keep their promises.

Adam Ramshaw, director of the customer experience consultancy Genroe, says companies need to do their best to stick to what they said they would. He adds, “Whether you call it ‘reliability’ or ‘consistency’ or simply ‘do what you say you will do,’ this drives more customer loyalty than any other single service element.”

Tweet this!"Do what you say you will do...This drives more customer loyalty than any other single service element" - @Genroe (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

  1. Avoid stagnation.

Boredom will drive your customers to your competitors. Regularly evaluating—and improving—your marketing, product innovation and customer experience efforts is how you keep customers coming back for more.  

Michel Falcon, speaker and author of a popular customer service blog, says companies should constantly look for opportunities to improve.

“Companies must always be refining their customer experience to make it world-class,” Falcon says. “My rule of thumb is to create at least one CX improvement initiative per quarter.”

Tweet this!"Companies must always be refining their customer experience to make it world-class" - @MichelFalcon (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

  1. Maintain ongoing dialogue.  

Building loyalty requires a deep understanding of your customers—of their needs, aspirations and motivations. The best way to build that understanding is to engage with them directly.

“Loyalty is no longer a one way journey,” says Martin Lindstrom, speaker and author of Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends. “Today’s customers expect more than a monologue from your brand. They expect a dialogue, reflections, reactions and change.”

Tweet this!"Today’s customers expect more than a monologue from your brand" - @MartinLindstrom (TWEET THIS QUOTE)

Lindstrom is also quick to point out that customer loyalty tactics like rewards and loyalty programs may not work if companies don’t prioritize two-way conversations with customers.

“An amazing customer loyalty program, awards points and bonus may still occasionally do the trick,” he explains. “However it is when the customer first witnesses how your brand is able to truly react to their needs—and, even better, communicate your reflections back to them—that true loyalty is created.”

Keep your customers

Customers today are empowered with more choices than ever, making customer loyalty more challenging for companies. But, as Douglas and other experts explore in How to Keep Your Customers From Cheating on You, building lasting brand affinity is not impossible. By truly focusing on your customers—their experiences, their expectations from the products they use and their aspirations—you’ll have a better shot at winning the hearts and business of your customers over and over again and keep them from going to your competitors.

For examples of companies driving customer loyalty, check out the e-book How to Keep Your Customers From Cheating on You.

How to keep your customers from cheating on you

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