How often have you wondered how you could make customers more loyal to you? Would it be fair to say it’s more often than you wonder how you could gain more loyalty from your own employees?
If so, that’s a shame, because unless employees feel loyal to your company, they are unlikely to generate real loyalty from customers. Satisfaction, maybe, at best. But not true loyalty.
Customer loyalty starts with employee loyalty.
There is an enormous difference between customer satisfaction and genuine customer loyalty. In fact, studies show that 75 percent of customers who leave a company were satisfied or even “very satisfied” with the company they left. Loyalty is an entirely different animal.
Most of the things that companies do in an effort to boost customer loyalty—including loyalty “programs” that offer everything from frequent-flyer miles to special discounts—really do no more than boost customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer will stick with you until a better, more satisfying offer comes along. And your competitors are always looking for ways to make a better offer. Loyalty programs can be copied. Loyalty itself cannot.
Here is a challenging but useful way to think about customer loyalty: Customers are not truly loyal to you until they have stopped “shopping” for better offers—you are so valuable to them that they are unmoved by the appeals of your competitors.
The catch is that such strong feelings of loyalty almost never attach to a corporate entity. People only feel loyalty like that to other people. It is entirely a matter of personal relationships. This means that if you want true loyalty from your customers, you must rely entirely on your employees. Only they can earn loyalty. Only they can create it, nurture it and keep it.
How can your company create the greatest number of truly loyal customers? Impress upon your employees that the underlying purpose of every conversation that every person in your company has with a client should be to create loyalty by strengthening their personal relationship with that client.
Does that sound like a tall order? Well, every customer-contact person in your organization can be taught how to act as a loyalty generator. The “how” lies in extending and adapting great sales training beyond your sales force. Training customer relationship professionals on how to create loyalty is a perfectly natural development. Great sales training always aims to create loyalty, and anything that accomplishes that goal has to be as much a communication system as a sales system.
But first, employees have to feel it.
With or without great training, however, there is a strong connection between the degree of loyalty an employee feels for the company and the employee’s ability to create loyalty in customers. If I don’t feel much loyalty to the company I work for, it would be awfully tough to convince you to feel any. And, my sense of loyalty to my company would be hard to fake.
So, what kinds of things can a company do to gain loyalty from its own employees? One key loyalty builder is for employees to feel as if they’re growing in their careers. Research shows that the biggest reason employees leave a company is because they feel they are in dead-end jobs.
One of the best ways to address that concern is to invest in training that gives employees valuable new skills. For example, if you have ever introduced sales training to your sales force and seen their skills and confidence flower, you have also seen loyalty to your company rise.
In other words, when you use customer relationship training to turn all of your customer-contact people into customer relationship professionals, you get a free bonus—and it’s a big one. The mere fact that you are extending training to more of your workforce means that you are building employee loyalty in more of your workforce.
As for the fact that the point of this training is to teach these more loyal employees exactly how to generate greater loyalty among customers—well, you might call that a virtuous circle.