As we know, it’s always easier and more cost effective to get more business from an existing customer than to get business from a new customer. This is true in any business and applies equally to attractions, members clubs and hospitality business.
It’s easy to assume people may only want to visit you once, but what about events, locals who want somewhere to bring visiting family or friends, converting one time visitors into season ticket holders, or simply referring you to neighbours or colleagues?
One of the pitfalls that can stand in the way of converting one-time customers into loyal fans is leaving them feeling unappreciated.
It’s estimated that over two thirds of customers will fail to return if they feel unappreciated. This is probably the number one reason businesses lose existing customers or fail to get repeat business.
Too many organisations only reward new customers in a bid to attract new business, but do nothing – or at best very little – to reward the loyalty of existing customers.
How does this make you feel when you are the customer and see offers only applicable to new customers? In my book it should be the other way round, reward your existing customers first.
What do you do for your loyal customers - be they regular individual visitors or guests, supporters, group organisers, or members - so they feel appreciated?
Here are 7 things you could be doing, if you’re not already…
1. Simply saying thank you
The easiest way to show your appreciation is with a simple but sincere thank you.
The simplest and quickest way to do this is in person, at the time.
But, how you say thanks is less important. It’s the fact you do something – anything – to show you appreciate your customer choosing to do business with you over and above all the other venues, organisations or events they could have chosen.
Depending on the nature of your business, and the value and relationship with each individual customer, you could follow up with a simple thank you message. If they have booked in advance or online, you’ll have their contact details, so these days this is such a simple thing to do (obviously observing GDPR rules).
Even better, for high value customers, thank them with a personalised physical thank you note. Some think in this web-based age this is out-dated; but how would your customers react to receiving a handwritten personal note in the post, rather than another bland email clogging up their inbox?
It might be more appropriate to say thank you to a whole team of people. I’ve yet to find a team who doesn’t appreciate a special treat they can share in the office over coffee.
Perhaps you want to do a little bit more for your special or regular customers to reward customer loyalty; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of; the organisers of events; anyone who has made referrals that have brought you extra business; for giving you a glowing testimonial or review; or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.
And the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves – people they’re happy to tell everything about you.
Give your valued loyal customers privileged or exclusive access to services, events, information or facilities which are only available to existing or your most valued customers, and not available to new customers.
It could be a simple token memento, an exclusive offer, useful information or tips that’s relevant to your organisation and customers’ interests. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, but something your customers will value. It’s the thought that’s gone into it that counts.
Or offering them exclusive access to a special preview to a new activity, re-opening a refurbished space or installing a new exhibit. Make it into an event in itself. The more exclusive the better, to help people feel special and valued.
Think of it like a private members’ club, that delivers real benefits to members.
If your relationship is an ongoing one, never underestimate the impact when you remember someone’s name or their personal preferences. Do they have any particular likes and dislikes; what is their favourite product, brand, or combinations; do they have any particular requirements; do they have a preferred day or time to visit?
Do you know their important dates? If you run events, you might remind them their anniversary is approaching. Or being mindful of seasonal activities that impact them, e.g. if dealing with charities, are there relevant awareness days or weeks associated with the charity.
Maybe you’ve heard of a proud moment such as their organization winning an award. It’s a great excuse to get in touch and congratulate them.
Be attentive to your customers’ individual needs and specific circumstances. Listen, engage and take time to show your genuine interest in them. And keep a record of all this in your CRM, so the service they receive is consistent whoever attends to them.
Remembering simple details will always be appreciated.
4. Ask for feedback
Never take your customers for granted; ask for their feedback and resolve any shortfalls quickly.
Problems or challenges are often your opportunity to shine and leave a positive lasting impression if dealt with positively. Now’s a chance to exceed expectations.
Face to face will always win over a questionnaire, and certainly help with TripAdvisor or other reviews.
Ask customers what they like and what (if anything) disappoints; learn from this and continually improve. Customers appreciate you asking for their opinions, as long as you follow through. Keep them updated to demonstrate you’ve been listening, and re-establish trust.
And, what better excuse to invite them back, to demonstrate you’ve taken action on their feedback?
5. Look after your team
I’m a firm believer that behaviour breeds behaviour, and that the way you treat your team is reflected in the way they treat your customers. So, treat your team in the way you’d like them to treat your most valuable customers.
Demonstrate your trust in them by empowering them to do whatever is in the customer’s best interests. Such as the authority to offer an alternative or a refund if a customer is disappointed, to give the occasional extra as a way of acknowledging a customer, to look for opportunities and make suggestions and personal recommendations.
Give your team access to customer data so they too can acknowledge your loyal and long standing customers and make them feel valued.
6. Show you care
Taking time to listen (and showing you’re listening) not only demonstrates your interest, but also helps identify what’s important and to clarify customers’ expectations.
Recognise others might have different priorities, interests and needs. Understanding what these are makes it a lot easier to achieve a win-win.
This might involve problem-solving and frequently requires a degree of flexibility. Even if it’s something you can’t help them with directly, simply offering suggestions or pointing them in the right direction will always be appreciated.
Keep your promises, even if it means doing something that seems insignificant to you. If problems arise, nip them in the bud so they don’t fester.
Own up to any mistakes and admit when you’re in the wrong, or when you know you may not be able to fulfil a customer’s needs. Yes, I know this can be tough, but it certainly earns you brownie points when you do.
Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, or on subsequent anniversaries, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.
The law of reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.
So, the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.
Take every opportunity to surprise and delight your customers, by giving spontaneous and unexpected little extras that they won’t get from your competitors.
The bottom line
Pay attention to detail, be consistent, do that little bit extra when needed, so your customers always feel appreciated.
I’d love to hear what you do to say thanks to your customers and create long term loyalty.
Caroline Cooper is the Founder of Naturally Loyal, and has over 30 years' training and development experience in hospitality.
Caroline has a number of free resources and guides on improving customer experience and team engagement, you can access here: https://www.naturallyloyal.com/free-resources/