As a business owner, it sounds wonderful to think about how you can gather and maintain a loyal customer base. You may already believe that your customers only come to you for the products you offer. But it’s not always true. And if your customers are loyal today, they are still capable of changing their mind tomorrow.
Loyalty exists in such a way that customers will choose your business as long as they have a reason to love you. But there are circumstances that cause people change their minds, often in a single moment, and all loyalty is lost.
Here are some of those reasons, and what you can do about it:
1. People love convenience
If there wasn’t a high demand for convenience, we wouldn’t have so many drive-thrus like liquor stores, coffee shops, smoke shops, pharmacies, funeral homes, and even wedding chapels.
Because they want life to be as convenient as possible, people probably aren’t as loyal as you think. For example, if someone needs toilet paper, and the grocery store is out of their favorite brand, they’re not likely to hold out until a new delivery arrives. If it’s an immediate need, they’ll settle for something else.
And if you’re a local restaurant, you may have a loyal patron who swears they would never eat at the big chain restaurant across the street, but when their cousin from out of town wants to eat at that chain restaurant, guess where they’re going?
Solution: Just accept that people enjoy convenience. It won’t hurt your business when your customers buy elsewhere out of convenience. Everyone does it. This aspect is completely out of your control, so just let it be.
2. Your customers don’t know “what else” you sell
If you sell multiple products, you might discover that one of your customers bought the same product you sell from a different company. If you have a personal connection with them, it may come up in conversation, and you could find yourself hearing the words, “I didn’t know you sold that, too! If I knew, I would have bought it from you!”
In this case, the only reason customer loyalty doesn’t exist is because you haven’t made it exist. In other words, even if you have raving fans who would rather die than buy from the competition, if they’re not aware of everything you sell, they’re going to buy from other businesses.
Solution: When your existing customers don’t know you sell other products, that means it’s time for you to increase your brand awareness and start developing your relationships with your existing customers so you’re the first business that comes to mind when they think of those other products.
3. People like getting better deals
You may have roped them in with a fantastic deal, but someone else out there can easily snag your customers with a better one. It’s not hard to do. In fact, all the major cellphone companies have been doing it for over a decade.
Sometime around 2014, carriers began offering the biggest incentive yet – to pay off early termination fees for switching to their services. Although it was wrought with complex qualifications, it worked really well.
Even if consumers aren’t in a contract with their current carrier, it’s always easier to get a better deal on a cellphone plan when you’re a new customer. And since the law now permits cell phones to be unlocked, consumers aren’t forced to buy a new phone when they want to switch carriers.
All of these benefits are increasingly tempting to a customer who feels like they’ve been wronged by their current carrier – the carrier they were once absolutely loyal to. Many people get charged hidden fees or see their rate plan go up out of nowhere. Being in that state presents them with a perfect reason to jump ship and switch.
Solution: Do everything you can do maintain good relations with your customers, and put their needs first. While you can’t control the deals offered by other businesses, if you pay attention to deals offered by your competition, you can construct some good deals of your own. Not everyone is going to ditch you to save ten bucks. But if they can save ten bucks and be treated better, they just might switch.
4. People will drop you if they think you’ve done something wrong
One of the biggest reasons customer loyalty can disappear over night is that customers hear about unethical practices or discover that a company supports ideals they don’t agree with. Volkswagon lost $20 billion when they admitted to installing software in their cars to produce false emissions test results so the cars would appear more environmentally friendly.
Solution: Be aware of the activities you choose to engage in. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want the public to find out about, because eventually, it will come out.
The loyalty myth isn’t hopeless
The concept of customer loyalty is somewhat of a myth, as human nature itself points to its impossibility. But that doesn’t mean you can’t generate outstanding, dedicated, customers. It just means that when they’re out there in the world, they’re going to make choices to give other businesses some of their money.
And that’s really what our economy thrives on. So in that sense, let your customers be who they are and buy from other businesses when it’s convenient. Just make sure the reason they’re buying from others isn’t because they’re upset with you.