Is customer or employee loyalty lagging at your business these days? Even under the best circumstances it can happen if you take your eye off the ball for even a short while. With so many things to focus on, many business owners sometimes lose sight of just how important customer as well as employee loyalty can be.
Right now, you’re probably scrambling to find new customers or clients. You’re hustling to handle 101 day-to-day tasks and perhaps manage employees or independent contractors as well. No matter what the economic conditions are, however, it’s vital to be vigilant in two key areas:
- Keeping the customers or clients your business already has; and,
- Keeping employees loyal and motivated even if raises, bonuses and benefits aren’t in the cards.
Now that the job market is improving a bit in many industries and areas, restless employees may be less inclined to stick around. If they don’t feel like you’ve treated them well or appreciated their hard work, they’ll look for something better.
Customers present an even greater challenge. For most growth-minded entrepreneurs, the tendency is to focus on new business development. But that might have it backwards. The first move should almost always be to keep what you’ve got, because it costs twice as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain an existing one.
Here are 10 tips to amp up loyalty at a small business – five ways for customers and five for employees:
1) Provide more frequent progress reports: Show your customer or client the work you’ve been doing and the results you’ve achieved. This will help answer un-asked questions and allay latent fears.
2) Get some face time: If you deal mostly by email, web-connection or phone, make an effort to meet in person. Seeking “face time” says you are interested and gives you an opportunity to literally see things for yourself that can lead to improvements or new business. It’s also a great way to generate referrals.
3) Ask for feedback: Never assume a customer is completely satisfied. Throughout the sales or work process (whatever that might be for your business) ask how your customer feels about what you’re doing. Then take action on any suggestions. Think of yourself as a waiter who checks back periodically throughout the meal to see if everything is okay.
4) Tune your product or service offerings: As proud as you may be about your product or service, remember it’s being made or done for the customer or client – not you. Make certain you know what they want, and when they want it.
5) Be open to making changes: Customers may want to change terms, conditions, purchase orders, payment processes or other things. Customers will appreciate if you show a willingness to work with them on adapting to new conditions.
Gaining worker loyalty
Ed Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, offers these employee loyalty suggestions:
1) Say thank you: It seems so simple, but just telling your employees “thank you” when they’ve done a great job will go a long way. Verbal recognition boosts morale and builds mutual respect. “As a result, employees will not only work hard for you, but they’ll stick with you through thick and thin,” says Hess.
2) Give low-cost bonuses and perks: If you can’t give significant raises or bonuses, show appreciation with less pricey rewards. Options include gift certificates to local restaurants, movie tickets or maybe a paid Friday afternoon off. Also, providing a catered lunch once a month or doughnuts in the morning is a good way to boost loyalty.
3) Help them improve themselves: Your employees will appreciate your willingness to help them invest in their futures. Consider paying for them to attend a class at a local community college or a seminar that interests them (and could help your business, too).
4) Help them get healthy: Providing employees with a gym membership is a great way to say “thank you” and can have multiple benefits. Find out if a local gym will offer a group deal.
5) Ask their opinion: Employees appreciate being asked what they think. Solicit their ideas on how the business can be improved. You might be surprised by what you hear.
About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.