UPDATE: This customer loyalty post was originally published on 21 March 2020 and was updated on 27 April 2020.
Gaining customer loyalty requires showing your customers that you are there for them, can be trusted, and will go that extra mile. Especially during uncertain times like those we are living in now due to COVID-19 (coronavirus).
In times of crisis, people crave personal connection.
Your customers will be looking to you to have all the business bases covered — how will I get my products? Will there be any interruption in your services? — while instilling a sense of confidence and calm.
When customers know you “get them” and are addressing their priorities, you've created a synergy to build upon.
Nurturing customer loyalty at a distance
A smile, a handshake, a joke shared — these are the small, personal reassurances we give each other every day. But public health crises like the coronavirus pandemic require physical distance. Here’s how to help keep the customer love going strong — even at a distance:
- Embrace open, authentic communication.
- Provide stellar customer service.
- Offer a loyalty or rewards program.
- Create engaging social media campaigns.
- Offer coupons and discounts.
Let’s look at each of these five ways you might earn loyalty by letting customers know they can count on you.
1. Embrace open, authentic communication
At times like these, it’s not useful to sugarcoat reality — your customers need the truth about what’s going on and how it will impact their relationship with your business. Here are a few tips:
- Keep the lines of communication open and respond promptly. If that means hiring a virtual assistant to answer the phone, consider it.
- Use your unique voice to provide a window for your customers into how your business is managing through the coronavirus crisis. If possible, create a separate page on your website dedicated to your processes during this time frame.
- Make that page and your contact information front and center on your homepage to enable quick and easy lines of communication. Link to this page in all your communications.
- Encourage your customers' feedback so that you know what you can do to be there for them. Implement processes to cater to these needs as they evolve.
You won’t always know the answers and it’s best to say so when you don’t. Be sure to direct customers to credible sources for all health-related questions.
2. Provide stellar customer service
Customer service is a deal-maker no matter what the season. Since you can’t actually reach out and touch your customers right now, you’ll need to be creative during this time. Use these points to guide you:
- Knowing your market as you do, anticipate any issues that may come to the fore because of the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in. Be proactive and provide customer solutions to respond to these pressure points.
Introducing home delivery or switching to virtual sessions are two examples of creative adaptation.
- Use personalized emails or phone calls to discuss orders and make suggestions.
- With every order include a tip sheet or freebie, with a personal note that will reassure your customers you’re still firmly by their side.
- If you have supply chain or staffing problems, be transparent and let customers know there may be a delay before they have to ask or learn there is an issue.
Remember, the smallest gesture can make a world of difference when customers are feeling vulnerable.
3. Offer a loyalty or rewards program
Customer loyalty programs are successful because they do one thing you really need to do right now: strengthen the bond between your business and your customer.
Loyalty programs are easy to set up, either through third-party apps or with WordPress and WooCommerce, extensions that handle all the details for you.
- Offer perks or rewards based on products purchased or amount spent.
- If the reward is out of stock, you can manually reward points or discounts that can be applied on future purchases.
Check out this article for complete details on starting a rewards program.
4. Create engaging social media campaigns
When you can’t greet customers in person, the next best thing is social media. With all this time on their hands, you can bet people will be there waiting for you.
Here are three social best practices:
- Be consistent. With routines upended, posting on the same days/times reassures customers you are available and when to expect your updates.
- Launch innovative social media campaigns to keep customers engaged. One example is to schedule AMAs (Ask Me Anything) times where customers can submit their latest questions and get your responses in real time.
- Create a special group on your Facebook page where customers can share their experiences and challenges and support each other. If you can, listen in and respond when appropriate.
The goal is to start or deepen a sense of community among your clients, customers and leads via social media.
5. Offer coupons and discounts
For retailers, groceries, restaurants and others that are offering delivery, coupons or discounts are a good way to get people to try your service.
Keep in mind that people are being asked to change their habits … and we all know how hard that is.
Rather than get in the car and drive to your business, they must now go online or reach for their phones.
Give customers an incentive to change their routines.
- Coupon codes are a great way to help those who are penny-pinching due to the current uncertainty.
- Create discounts on package deals of products or services you know your customers will need to keep their lives on track.
- Offer payment plans to stretch out customer purchases.
The status quo has changed for everyone. Creativity and good humor could well lead to new opportunities for your business.
Keep that connection growing
To wrap up, the best thing you can do is to be available and understand your customer's needs.
- Create proactive personal communications
- Display unparalleled customer service
- Reward customers for repeat purchases
- Be available and helpful on social media
- Offer coupons and discounts that target customer needs
One more thing: unless absolutely necessary, try not to over-automate every step of the marketing funnel. It’s the human-to-human connection — even from a distance — that will help build long-term relationships and loyalty.
We'll get through this bump in the road, as we always do. To build customer loyalty, all you really have to do is just remain focused on the human beings on the other side of the transaction.