By Tim Young
Do you love your customers? I’m being serious.
Ok, then how about this question? Why are you in business and how are you making money?
Is it because you are smarter than the next gal, work harder than the other guy, and you just have “it?” Or is it because, whether by accident or purposeful calculation, you identified what your customers want or need and figured out how to connect with them?
Without customers, you wouldn’t be in business. So I ask again, do you love your customers?
That was the easy part. Now here is the more difficult step. How do you show your customers that you love them?
Customer loyalty can be fleeting. Many experts will even say you can’t ever really generate customer loyalty because “true” loyalty is emotional, illogical and driven by passion. You are loyal to your family or favorite sports team – you are loyal to people and things that are not easily replaced. But one store can easily be replaced by another. Competition is fierce and value propositions are copied quickly. So how do you carve out an advantage?
I argue that customer loyalty is possible and that to truly earn it you have to relate to customers on their terms.
I recently read Gary Chapman’s book the “The 5 Love Languages.” It has nothing to do with customer loyalty, but yet it is very informative in the manner in which you should love your customers. The premise of the book is that each individual is unique and feels loved by receiving different actions of love. Not all people react the same, or feel loved when you express it the same way. Each one of my children has a different love language and knowing that has helped me create a better relationship with each one of them, because I understand them better. It’s not about me, it’s about them.
Without going any deeper into Mr. Chapman’s book, I want to draw the correlation to how companies should love their customers. It’s not about the company; it’s about the customer. You don’t have to love every single potential customer, only the ones you want to retain. Once you have identified those customers you want to keep, you need to get to know them. What motivates them to “choose” your business? There are plenty of other choices but they chose to do business with you. Why? What mattered to them? What do they see value in?
This is where analytics can and should be utilized. It can help to understand each customer at an individual level and to create actionable insights that showcase your love to your customers.
Kroger has one of the most successful loyalty programs in the United States, if not the world. Why is it successful? Because it leverages data to determine what matters most to each customer and then reinforce that with an offer on that very item. Last year Forbes published a piece on the Kroger program, “Kroger Knows Your Shopping List Better Than You." The article highlighted how Kroger fosters sales growth with its customers, and it isn’t by giving every customer the same treatment or by convincing them to do something they aren’t inclined to do. Instead Kroger “loves” its customers and in return its customers “love” Kroger.
Other companies with loyal customers don’t actually have an official loyalty program, but it doesn’t mean they don’t create loyalty. They just figured out their customer’s love language in relation to what they sell and continue to deliver on that promise every day through other means than a loyalty program. Think Zappos, Wal-Mart, Mary-Kay.
Retail is where I spend most of my time, and history says all retailers eventually fail and another retailer replaces them. Maybe, if a retailer focused all its energy at understanding how to connect with its customers it won’t end up on the list of storied retailers who are now long gone. But instead it will change with its customers and continue to garner their loyalty and love for years to come.