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ASTRSK founder and regular Uber user Elliot Tomaeno (who is, in fact, Uber’s most frequent rider) last year wrote to the ride-share giant an open letter detailing his disappointment at the lack of appreciation he said the company shows loyal customers.
Related: The 5 Emotions That Drive Customer Loyalty
In his communique, Tomaeno pointed out that the company hadn’t once thanked him — no postcards, no emails, no recognition of his “undying loyalty.”
He wasn't just being nitpicky. According to L2 Research, 90 percent of customers surveyed, who participate in loyalty programs, said they wanted those companies to communicate with them regularly. As Tomaeno touched on in his letter, the message here is that a little personalized outreach helps turn regular clients into dedicated brand advocates who will actively spread the good word.
So consider: If you take your most devoted customers for granted, you’re losing an enormous opportunity. When it comes to driving sales, few things are more important than building loyalty.
Rewarding the regulars
Loyal clients keep coming back, providing steady revenue for a company. But what is the best approach to creating that loyalty?
Think about credit card companies. They offer reward points for signing up and more points if you spend a certain amount. Yet it’s not loyalty that keeps customers from closing their accounts. They know their credit scores will drop if they do, so an artificial block is in place that helps credit card companies retain customers. Points don’t instill a sense of loyalty in them, but negative consequences do.
On the flip side of the same coin, you have companies that seem to almost intentionally gouge their longtime clients. Is it any wonder that people seem to universally loathe their cable providers? Some major American cable companies are notorious for offering better packages at lower price points to new customers while forcing existing customers to pay more for less.
Obviously, neither approach is going to build real loyalty. Here are three steps to strategically reward and retain your most loyal customers.
1. Understand the complex value of each customer. One of my clients' sales teams told me about a special factor they take into account before deciding how much to charge a particular client. It’s called the PIA, or “Pain in the Ass,” index. Basically, they’re making a value judgment about how much emotional distress certain clients are worth in the long run.
With the PIA index in mind, consider how longtime customers are likely already pretty satisfied and are therefore more enjoyable to work with. That’s what I’m talking about when I say you need to understand a customer’s true value, and not just in terms of dollars.
Sound simple? Many of the business leaders I know actually don’t understand what their best customers are really worth. Knowing the value of repeat customers versus that of new customers would help those leaders better tailor offers and loyalty initiatives for each. To assess this, yourself, keep metrics for every client, to see not only how much bottom-line revenue you make off each one, but also how many referrals each client sends your way.
At our company, we also measure the efficiency of our clients, in respect to time spent, and how they’ve treated our people in the past. The amount of emotional energy you have to sink into certain accounts may not make them worth your time, ultimately. As for the others: Let those who provide the greatest value know how much you appreciate them.
Related: Analyzing the Science Behind Customer Loyalty
2. Give them more than a punch card. Repeat-customer perks have long been part of the loyalty-building game. Historically, though, these benefits have been somewhat uninspired and generic. Is it such a prize to earn a free sandwich after purchasing 10?
To win your customers’ dollars and their hearts, get more creative with your incentives. Starbucks, for example, developed a highly personalized rewards program. By partnering with outside companies, such as Lyft and Spotify, it provides frequent latte-sippers with unique perks beyond what its stores provide.
Most companies are missing out on this lucrative opportunity, as 89 percent of brands fail to tailor rewards to their customer base, according to Capgemini Consulting. Old-school discounts simply don’t work anymore. These days, only 47 percent of customers say that they'll exchange their personal contact information for discounts, according to 352 Inc.'s Geoff Wilson; and that number can be expected to continue to drop.
So, segment your customers and build out a solid loyalty program that tailors rewards specifically to those individuals' interests. Whether you allow them to earn points for each purchase or dollar spent, or offer exclusive promotions to clients who have been with you for a certain period of time, individualized rewards will make them feel great — and convince them to stick around.
3. Show them the love — constantly. One of our clients, Build.com, sends regular emails to its customers that contain useful home-improvement tips. We see great engagement with this program because when recipients see this content hit their inboxes they feel part of an exclusive club that shares insider information.
With the Rockefeller Corp. finding that 68 percent of customers leave because they feel companies don’t care about them, that kind of ongoing attention can have a huge impact. When you provide valuable information in an episodic fashion, your customers will come to expect and anticipate the friendly correspondence. And the continuous stream of content will lead them back for more.
The truth is, people today are so bombarded with emails, text messages and targeted advertisements that it’s easy for yours to get lost in the noise. You have to make sure customers understand exactly what you’re offering and know that you’re aware of their allegiance to your product or service.
Related: Designing a Customer Strategy Focused on Genuine Loyalty
The formula is really pretty simple: Loyal customers translate into dependable revenue and future growth, but loyalty doesn’t develop magically. To earn it, you have to dig into the data and listen to your gut instincts to figure out the true value of each customer.
Then, to prove to your best customers that you understand their desires and interests, provide them with intriguing content and special personalized offers. Once you have their attention, continue to shower those loyal customers with appreciation.
I promise, they’ll pay it back with interest.
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