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Customer Loyalty – How to Build and Maintain It

Feb 8th, 2012

Customer LoyaltyCindy Bertram – Customers today have more choices and options available when it comes to making a purchase or using a service. As a business owner, how can you insure that you will not just be at the top of their list, but the business they use and continue to use?

The Reality of Customer Loyalty Today

In today’s business world, marketing is not a “one size fits all” and  identifying who your target customers and clients are, as well as the age range they fall into spills over to using a generation marketing approach. Beyond that, business owners need to also understand how those potential clients liked to be reached and touched, and then use the appropriate methods.

Key Points to Building Loyalty – “Disney Keys To Excellence”

The Disney Corporation has led the way when it comes to building customer loyalty. Their ongoing workshops, including “Disney Keys to Excellence” provide some of their best practices. As Walt Disney himself often said, “You don’t build it for yourself. You know what people want and you build it for them.”  The Walt Disney Company is built around this premise as well as their philosophy that you need to connect emotionally with your guest/clients, and make sure that the experience delivers superior value. Your brand aligns with individual identity and contacts build relationships.

“Experience Mapping”

An area that Disney focuses on and excels at involves their training when it comes to “Experience Mapping.”   This is a method they use and train their staff members (also referred to as “Cast members”) when dealing and interacting with their guests.  “Experience Mapping” analyzes the effectiveness of the experience at each point of contact, which may or may not be with an actual person. Each of these “touch points” combined then creates an overall experience felt by Walt Disney guests.

Taking this Forward – Shep Hyken, well known expert, author

 Shep Hyken, well known speaker, author and consultant has written extensively on the subject of customer loyalty. His book, The Cult of the Customer, (Wall Street Journal Bestseller) focuses on this as well as steps needed to create and maintain customer loyalty.

5 Stages of Culture Before Clients Become Loyal

Hyken defines the word “cult” as “a group of people with common and shared interests. There are five levels or stages that people/customers go through before they become loyal. The first is the “Cult of Uncertainty,” which he mentions “at best, is where the experience is inconsistent.” To move forward, it’s critical to get out of this uncertainty.   From there, the second stage is “The Cult of Alignment” – everyone must be headed in the right direction.  The third is what Hyken refers to as the “Cult of the Experience.” He explains this as, “before it can be owned, it must be experienced.”  The “Cult of Ownership,” is the fourth stage of building customer loyalty, and Hyken defines this as “once an experience is predictable, it can be owned.” In other words, the experience must be positive.  And the fifth stage is “The Cult of Amazement,” which he says involves the “A+ Predictable above Average Experience.”  This is a way to provide above average experiences for the client.   Hyken’s most recent book, The Amazement Revolution, also a New York Times bestseller & WSJ bestseller, focuses more on this.

Strategies and Additional Tips

 Hyken also provides ten different strategies to work through those different stages of building customer loyalty, and notes that at any given point, one person does represent the company. As a business owner, it’s important to look at the “touch points” as well as “impact points,” which are ones that occur behind the scenes.  Once again, The Cult of the Customer provides more on these areas, and steps to take.

Last Thoughts

One of the unique points that Hyken mentions is that “you’re only as good as the last time.”  When it comes to building customer loyalty, it’s critical to focus on this as an ongoing way of thinking about your current customers and clients, isn’t it?

Cindy Bertram is a Business Advisor for the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, an organization with the mission of having a positive and measurable impact on the formation, growth, and sustainability of small businesses in Indiana, and to develop a strong entrepreneurial community. Cindy can be reached at cbertram@isbdc.org.