No business, whatever size they are or industry they're in, can afford to ignore the issue of customer loyalty. If a franchise isn't attracting loyal customers, it has to continually appeal to new customers. This is not only expensive; it's also unsustainable. Here, we take a look at eight ways you can encourage greater customer loyalty.
1. Keep in touch
If franchise brands don’t have regular contact with their clients, it's easier than ever to get lost amongst the mass of competitors. The modern marketplace is dominated and defined by one quality – choice. If a customer doesn’t like a product or isn’t happy with the level of customer service offered, they can shop with a different business. The level of choice available to consumers also means that it’s a constant battle for businesses to remain at the forefront of customers’ minds.
This means that businesses need to implement a marketing and communications policy that ensures regular contact with their customers. Whether you opt to use email newsletters, leaflets, reminder cards or a follow-up phone call, it's essential to keep in touch with your customers if you want to ensure brand loyalty.
2. Promote loyalty throughout the franchise
It’s going to be extremely difficult to build customer loyalty if your franchise doesn't foster a culture of loyalty internally. Employees need to be loyal to the franchise and, in return, the franchise management team need to ensure that they demonstrate commitment to their employees. Instilling critical values in your staff is much easier if they experience the benefits of them first-hand. Likewise, customers are much more likely to show loyalty to a business if they can see that a business’ employees are loyal to the franchise and its management team.
3. Provide proper training
It’s surprising how little some businesses focus on customer service training. However, most profitable franchise companies invest a great deal in providing their employees with high-quality customer service training because it's considered an investment. Better trained employees make more money for their managers. It’s as simple as that.
Organising this type of training can be challenging. It's easy to fall into the trap of training for training's sake. All franchises need to make sure that their training programmes are focused, goal-orientated and engaging. Running a dull training scheme can actually be more damaging than not providing training in the first place. When employees switch off because of boredom, the material being taught is tainted by association. Although you may say all the right things, if they’re not said in the right way, many employees will conclude that vital lessons are a waste of time, unimportant or irrelevant.
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4. Reward customer loyalty
If you want to encourage customer loyalty, it's a good idea to reward the customers who show it. The wisdom of such a move is supported by the array of loyalty schemes operated by the vast majority of successful businesses. A reward scheme doesn’t have to be costly, nor does it have to involve handing out freebies. Franchise owners could offer a loyalty card or provide customers with money-off vouchers for repeat custom or referrals. You could even offer customers a free additional service, such as gift wrapping, or partner with other companies to offer discounts across a network of different businesses.
5. Be reliable
Loyalty, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is the act of “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution”. The key word in this definition is “constant”. Customer loyalty involves the client returning time and time again to purchase goods and services.
To guarantee this loyalty, the best franchise businesses will ensure that their standard of service is constant. In other words, it will be reliable. The customer will know that they can walk into one of your franchise units and they'll receive the same high-quality customer service, no matter what day of the week it is, which staff members are working or what type of product they're looking for.
6. The customer is usually right
The old saying, “the customer is always right”, is an obvious cliché, but it does ring true. While anyone who has ever worked in a customer-facing role will know that the customer isn’t actually always right – and can often be very wrong – businesses need to be flexible in their approach to customer queries and criticisms. A ‘computer says no’ approach is not going to encourage customer loyalty. Staff members who go out of their way to help customers – even if the request is difficult to fulfil or not typical company policy – are likely to make a customer-for-life.
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7. Be ‘people-people’
A large percentage of human interactions are now moderated or facilitated by technology. Whether it's mobile phone messaging, complex, digital POS systems or waiting staff taking orders on iPads, technology is often involved. If you want to reach customers and encourage greater customer loyalty, it's vital to ensure that your staff are people-people. By this, we mean that staff need to be able communicators, personable and willing to engage. Rather than hiding behind technology, they need to use it to facilitate better discourse and customer engagement.
8. Get to know your regulars
Finally, it’s important to recognise the fact that businesses of all shapes and sizes depend on being able to satisfy their regular customers. Many consumers will come and go, but your regulars are the individuals who will keep cash flowing through your business during the good times and the bad. Franchises need to foster relationships with regulars, getting to know them on a personal basis, where possible. At the very least, knowing customers’ names and shopping preferences will help clients feel welcome, wanted and appreciated.
While the eight tips listed above will help you foster improved customer loyalty, it’s also important to remember that customers need something to be loyal to. A business isn’t enough on its own. It requires an identity; a carefully considered brand. If you’re still struggling with customer loyalty having implemented our advice, you may want to reconsider your branding, as it may not be sufficiently developed.
Great branding will promote professionalism and demonstrate authenticity and clarity. But how do you achieve it? Here are some of our top tips to create a consistent brand identity:
Develop brand guidelines – and circulate them
This is a vital first step if you want to improve your brand consistency. Writing out clear instructions will set your intentions out in stone and give others direction. This should be referred to whenever content is being created for your business. Be sure to include instructions regarding the business’ objectives and values and the preferred tone of voice, fonts, typography and graphic style. You could also include a definitive logo and brand colour.
Enlist the help of an HR professional
An HR professional will be able to help you change the way in which you manage your staff so that your processes are more in keeping with your brand values. By doing this, you should be able to improve your staff onboarding and training procedures and ensure that potential and future employees understand and feel secure within your business.
Create and give out branded products
One of the best ways to promote a consistent brand identity is to create a range of products with your logo on. Of course, this must be the same logo, with little or no difference in size, shape or colour. When you order these products, make sure you always approach the same company. This way, they will be able to ensure that there is no disparity in your merchandise from order to order.
Create branded material
As a business owner, it is likely that you frequently give presentations and hand out documentation. Therefore, you should develop a specific template and paper headers that will be an immediate indicator of your brand. Make sure you incorporate them into all your material, from printed letters to webinar slideshows.
Overhaul social media profiles
These days, most businesses benefit from actively engaging with their customers through social media. It can be useful to employ dedicated brand ambassadors and social media managers to make sure that this side of the business is working well. Use the same profile and cover photos across all the social media platforms and make sure you present a consistent message. For example, it makes no sense to have an overly formal LinkedIn account if your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages are witty and cheeky.
Work with the right people
Now and again, you may get the chance to collaborate with an influencer. Before jumping to sign the contract, ask yourself whether they are the right person to promote your brand. Do they share your values? Do they have the right personality and reputation to reflect your messaging? Do they appeal to your target audience? If the answer to these questions is yes, then start talks to work out how they can best endorse your business.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©