I live in the desert in Israel. Our small town is about 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem, but can feel really isolated because we are surrounded by beautiful rolling desert hills and a gorgeous view of the Dead Sea. The closest shopping is at least a five to ten minute drive away.
This morning I had to get gas. The needle was below empty, and with a nine-month pregnant wife ready to go any day now, you really need to keep some in the tank. There are two gas stations along the main highway: one is only five minutes from my house and the other is about eight minutes. As I drove past the first gas station, on my way to see “my guy” who I always go to, I wondered why I take the extra three minutes and drive the extra kilometers to go to the second gas station.
Customer loyalty is an asset for any business. You build it by giving your customers great buying experiences and making them feel they can count on you. Even though the first gas station is closer to my house (convenience) I take the extra time to go to the second one because the attendants are friendlier (trust). Notice that I didn’t say the attendants at the first gas station were not friendly, it’s just that I’ve had a buying experience at the second gas station that I remembered: the attendants seem to smile more, wish people a good day, and rush to take care of my needs (in this case, getting gas and going quickly).
Whether your business is online or in person it’s the little things that can mean the difference between someone buying from you or the other guy. For online businesses, are your products easy to find and purchase? Do you have a way for customers to share feedback (this doesn’t mean just a web form – have an email address and phone number listed as well)? Are there ways of sharing your products and content socially (Share This, Like Button, or Tweet Button)? For in person businesses, do you pay attention to visual merchandising (arranging displays to lead the buyer to purchase)? Do your staff smile and enjoy working there (as an owner it is up to you to create this kind of environment)? What is the feeling your store conveys (there is something to be said for a clean bathroom)?
It’s possible that the first gas station even has better prices than “my guy” at the second one (I wouldn’t know since I haven’t gone back), but it’s not always about price. People are willing to pay a little bit more if they are getting more in return. It’s the reason I buy Apple computers: the buying experience rocks, especially when you go into an Apple Store to do it. It’s the reason Apple has legions of raving fans despite charging double or triple what you can get a PC for. How are you building customer loyalty?