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Building loyalty among customers, prospects and employees doesn't have to cost a dime. Yet increasing loyalty is particularly crucial when times are tough, and it can reap big rewards now, and in the months and years to come. The current climate represents a particularly opportune time to develop a model for building and maintaining consistently positive internal and external relationships. Following are 14 tips for engaging the loyalty of shoppers and staff:
- Start off by taking an inventory of people and their needs. What do people expect from you, and how do they arrive at these expectations? Once you've made that assessment, start taking some action to fulfill their expectations.
- Be someone they enjoy working with. This is the time to tune up your best attitude and realize that we need to continue to be flexible. One size does not fit all. It's important to flex our own styles as we work with customers and colleagues.
- Stay in touch via their preferred method of communication, which may be direct conversation, email, text messaging and/or written communication. Figure out a time log that works, and reach out with ideas, interests and just to stay in touch.
- Ask advice and feedback on how to do things better, or provide more products and services they want or need.
- Think strategically and help find ways to do their work better and more effectively.
- Do something that is, "out of the box." Find ways to surprise them with things that you know will be of interest. Do your homework. Sometimes, just by truly listening.
- Stay on their radar with both high tech and low tech touches: email and personal communication.
- Be dependable and reliable and let them know that if they need you at any time, you are available. People rarely, if ever, call people on their private time; yet sometimes just knowing they can, makes points.
- Show your appreciation for anything they have offered you. That applies even if it's a complaint or criticism. They are giving you a buying signal for the future and they deserve being thanked.
- Make sure you know what the competition is up to and keep on top of it. You need this knowledge and the ability to differentiate, as part of your arsenal. When times are better and more customers are ready to buy, they will think of you.
- Build a true foundation of trust by under promising and over delivering.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Understand both their pressures and opportunities. Understand why they may hold back on buying, and still be right there with them to keep the loyalty. When times are better, they will remember you.
- Keep five basic expectations top of mind for your clients and staff members: Rapport: Speak with them and create synergy. Recognition: Make them feel important, and do so with sincerity. Reliability: Be consistent in your interactions. Responsive: It is always important to get right back to someone, and in these times, it is even more important. Make sure you always get back with some reply. Resolution: Everyone loves the phrase, "I'll take care of it." So say it, and then deliver.
- Aim for share of wallet, share of market and share of heart, and know that all of this takes time and patience, especially in this economic climate.
Information in this article was edited from a story by Andrea R. Nierenberg, a business authority who heads The Nierenberg Group, a business communications firm.
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