Wednesday, 10 August 2016 15:07

What Can You Do to Increase Customer Loyalty

Like most other companies, while we are always looking to grow our customer base. We advertise, invest in new lead generation programs and support the efforts of our sales team daily. At the same time, we know the importance of developing and retaining the customer relationships we have. We realize that to be successful we need to work to avoid any sense of complacency about the customers we already have. For us—and for virtually every company in the B2B realm—our loyal, high-value customers are the backbone of our business. We hope to never take them for granted, and are always looking for ways to enhance our relationship as their hardwood supplier and earn more of their loyalty.

From experience, if we notice any long-term customer relationships drifting away or in need of improvement here are a few things we try to keep in mind.

Hardwood Lumber Customer Visit1. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Beyond fulfilling orders and making sure customers are satisfied with the delivery of your products or services, how much effort do you make to learn more about their challenges and pain points? “The first step in creating a better customer experience is to go to your current customers and find out what you’re doing well and where you need to improve,” writes Kathleen Anthony at FrazierHeiby.

A willingness to seek input on areas of improvement may already set you apart from competitors who neglect to further engage their customers.

2. Get every department involved. It’s often the case that customers “know” a company solely through its sales reps. But every department has a stake in nurturing customer loyalty, (especially in the hardwood lumber business). Look for opportunities to get all your departments involved in retaining customers and, where appropriate, appoint one or two additional contacts for customers to reach out to, as needed. In this way, they won’t feel like they’re being “sold to” at all times, but rather that your internal expertise, subject matter experts and company resources are available when they need it.

3. Build a customer-centric culture. Can you say you’ve really put the customer at the center of all you do? In a customer-centric culture, the needs of your customers can influence everything from hiring decisions to product development and design. The key question to ask is, How will our decisions affect our customers and is what we intend to do in their best interests?

This approach may be “difficult to implement because it can go against the better judgment of many CEOs and business owners, who are primarily focusing on maximizing profitability,” says business strategist Donna Peeples. But if you implement such an approach company-wide, “will your customers love you for it? Absolutely.”

4. Always resolve problems as quickly as possible. Inevitably, issues will arise around product delivery, malfunctions or other situations in which the customer is left disappointed with your offering.

On the one hand, some customers are inclined to abandon the existing relationship when this happens. But other customers judge their provider by how quickly the issue gets resolved to their satisfaction. If they’re happy with the outcome, chances are you’ve got a customer for life.

5. Keep evolving. Part of the challenge of instilling customer loyalty is that the needs of those customers keep changing. What worked for them yesterday may not satisfy them today or tomorrow. As part of your customer-retention strategy, it’s critically important to:

  • Stay on top of market trends and conditions, as well as customers’ changing needs.
  • Be prepared to refine your existing products and/or innovate with new offerings, based on a well-researched understanding of how much value you can add with a new product line. Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. Listen to what the industry (and your customers) are telling you, and go from there.

Finally, we have found that customers appreciate it when you are ready to share your expertise with them. We always try to do this by being a source of market, product and industry information for them, just as we attempt to do here in our Hardwood Lumber Blog. Actionable content is a key element in building a relationship of trust. When your customers feel that you have a genuine stake in their future, they have every incentive to stay with you and no good reason to stray elsewhere.

If you have other thoughts, best practices and experiences that worked for you in increasing customer loyalty, especially as it pertains to the hardwood lumber industry, let us know. We would love to hear from you!

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber
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