New Ideas for Customer Loyalty

by Lauren Dixon

Customer loyalty programs are making a comeback, as many companies realize the benefits of not only attracting, but also retaining a steady customer base.  A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the many perks that restaurants are touting to provide customers with an experience rather than just a one-time purchase.  Instead of buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks and leaving, members of the gold-level rewards program can earn a chance to purchase rare coffee from the Galapagos Islands and buy discounted trips there.  Red Lobster also offers trips to U.S. cities known for seafood.

While these loyalty programs make sense for the restaurant industry, particularly as they emerge from the recession, there are many other ways companies in diverse industries can build loyalty.  How can your company share its best products or services to customers while building a loyal following that stays with your company?  There are three steps you can take today to promote customer loyalty:

1.  Create and maintain a positive work environment with loyal employees.  While initially this might seem unrelated to customer loyalty, having loyal and enthusiastic employees helps to keep customers happy and excited to return.  Retention can play a key role in maintaining a core base of customers, while building more excitement for new customers.

2.  Explore new technologies to reach customers.  Social networking and web promotions can reach very targeted audiences in ways that are economical and personal.  Many companies are using e-mail blasts, blogs, and Twitter to tout the latest and greatest products that they offer.  Executed strategically, these mechanisms can build a following for your company.  But be careful and deliberate when starting on this path– explore ways to track feedback and ensure that your message is clearly communicated.

3.  Embrace change to keep ideas fresh and innovative.  Loyal customers might seem to primarily appreciate returning to their favorite offerings, but they also want growth and change to ensure that they are getting the best your company offers.  Remember to be nimble and adaptable when creating your loyalty strategy.  As the business environment changes, so will your customer  Be ready!

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