In sales management, customer loyalty is the cornerstone of sustained success. However, many businesses find themselves stuck in the cycle of losing customers, often due to a lack of understanding regarding customer expectations and experiences. Shifting from customer attrition to satisfaction and loyalty requires a proactive approach and a genuine commitment to understanding and exceeding customer expectations.
The question of loyalty
How loyal are your customers? It’s a question often met with responses like ‘mostly loyal’ or ‘loyal, I think’. The challenge lies in distinguishing genuine loyalty from inertia – customers who haven’t left yet. The key question is, when was the last time you asked your customers about their loyalty? Do you truly understand their definition of loyalty, and does it align with yours?
The two pillars of customer loyalty
Two factors stand out in customer loyalty: 1) past and current expectations 2) the experience customers have with your company in meeting those expectations. Unfortunately, many businesses take customer loyalty for granted, assuming that a lack of complaints equates to satisfaction. However, a silent customer might not be a loyal one.
The importance of discussing expectations
One of the critical steps toward building customer loyalty is discussing and defining customer expectations. How can you deliver an outstanding customer experience if you haven’t engaged your customers in a conversation about their expectations? The following questions can serve as a starting point for such discussions:
• What are your customers’ expectations of the product/service/solution they have bought from you? How can their experience be improved?
• What are their expectations of your company as a whole? What aspects of their experience can be enhanced?
• What expectations do they have of your company’s departments and other individuals they interact with? How can these interactions be improved?
• What expectations do they have of you personally, and how can you ensure you’re delivering a great experience for them?
Engaging in a dialogue with customers
Engaging your customers in a meaningful dialogue is crucial. Express gratitude for their ongoing support and emphasise your commitment to meeting their expectations. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their responses. Make them feel heard and valued. Questions like, ‘How often would you like to meet?’ or ‘What does great ongoing communication look like to you?’ can provide insights into their preferred engagement style.
The uncomfortable yet essential question
Few salespeople are comfortable asking the question, ‘What would cause us to lose your business, and how do we make sure this never happens?’ However, this query emphasises your commitment to retaining their business and opens a channel for honest feedback. Taking notes during these discussions is vital for addressing any issues and improving the overall customer experience. Proactivity in customer service is akin to being a vigilant gardener rather than a mere caretaker of plants. Picture a garden: if you wait for the plants to show signs of distress before watering them, they might wither, and the garden loses its vibrancy. However, a proactive gardener anticipates the needs of each plant, watering and nurturing them before signs of wilting appear. Similarly, in customer service, being proactive means anticipating customer needs and addressing potential issues before they escalate. It’s about tending to the customer relationship with foresight, ensuring a flourishing and resilient bond, much like a well-tended garden blooms with vitality.
Shifting from losing customers to fostering customer satisfaction and loyalty requires a deliberate and proactive approach. Expressing gratitude, understanding customer expectations, and actively engaging in conversations about their experiences are essential steps. Customer loyalty is not just meeting expectations but consistently exceeding them. By setting and delivering on high standards, businesses can create a customer experience that sets them apart from competitors, fostering loyalty and ensuring sustained growth in the highly competitive landscape of sales management.