How to Build Customer Loyalty

Happy Woman shopping
 Lilly Roadstones / Getty Images

According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of our sales come from 20% of our customers. This means to keep customers returning, we need to help them remain loyal to our stores.

Exceed Their Expectations

The easiest, and possibly the most affordable, way to build customer loyalty is to satisfy the customer. At least it used to be! Today, customers not only want their expectations met or satisfied, but they also want them exceeded. Sometimes this is easier in theory than in practice. Customers come in all personalities and with different objectives. Some people are even impossible to please.

So how do most retailers appease a large segment of the population? They implement the most basic customer service rule: treat the customer the way you want to be treated when shopping. Commonly known as the Golden Rule, this practice is fading quickly. With the advent of online shopping and social media, customers have a new rule. 

Treat customers the way they want to be treated (not you.) We tend to view the world through our lens from our perspective. So what seems good to us is what would be good for others. The issue is that the customer feels the same way — except it is their lens they are using, not yours. Often times, what we like is not good enough for others. 

In order to satisfy most customers and keep them happy, retailers can institute the following customer service practices in their store policy manual. Just be sure all employees are working towards satisfying the customer.

  • Greet every person as they enter the store
  • Say, "Thanks for coming in!" 
  • Offer your expert advice
  • Provide services beyond the customer's expectations
  • Thank every shopper as they exit the store

Acknowledge the Customer

Do you remember the television show Cheers? Each time George Wendt's character entered the bar, everyone would shout "Norm!" The truth is customers love to be acknowledged. Not only do they want retailers to greet them when they enter the store, but they feel special if that retailer knows them by name. We can't expect the retailer to remember each and every shopper's name but there are several instances where we have the opportunity to put a name with a face.

  • Introduce yourself to the customer. 
  • Ask them their name. 

Once you know the customer's name, use it every chance you get. Creating a dialog, and ultimately a relationship, with the customer can reinforce loyalty.

Reward the Customer

From store cards that discount certain items, to free gifts with purchase, there are numerous ways to incorporate a ​customer reward program. Before you spend a lot of money in marketing, consider what type of reward you value most as a shopper.

To some customers, a real reward may be a simple gesture of appreciation. Something small and inexpensive can read like a true "thank you for your business." When you choose the reward, you'll probably agree to spend a few dollars on a loyal customer will get you hundreds of more in revenue. And more importantly, it may ​even bring you referrals.

Follow up With the Customer

Like a good friend, loyal customers want to know that you care about their needs and interests. Here are a few ways to keep in touch:

  • Send personalized mailings
  • Invite them to special in-store events as a VIP shopper
  • Ask about their family or events in their life

Consumers appreciate knowing that someone is thinking about them. In return, a loyal customer will keep those cash registers working. Providing excellent customer service is a means to an end, but the intention should always come from the heart.