Teres Hager of 1Gas shares her five top tips for increasing customer loyalty and ensuring repeat business.

If you’re a small business, you’ll understand the importance of customer loyalty very well. The experience your customers have and the affinity they develop for your company are guaranteed to impact your future business and profits.

If you can deliver a great service, keep customers happy and increase their loyalty, you’ll find that you get increased value from word-of-mouth business when they talk about how you’ve helped them, and an increase in referrals. Plus, you’ll want them to keep coming back to you whenever they need something else, rather than going to a competitor. If you delivered a great job the first time around, you won’t need to win their business the second time.

Here are the five simple steps you can take to increase customer loyalty this year:

1) Communicate effectively

Exceptional communication is the cornerstone to any profitable customer relationship. Before you can deliver what your clients want, you need to know what they need. Ask your customers for their opinion and feedback – either in person, via an email, social media or an online survey. This can be a great way to learn about their opinions and concerns, and help you tailor your service to them. It also means you can see exactly what they are looking for and proactively help them, ensuring their continued loyalty.

2) Be patient

Dealing directly with customers and communicating proposals and problems can be quite challenging at times. However, being abrupt – even if you do know what is best – won’t do you any favours with their loyalty. Your customers pay the bills, so take the time to smile, be polite and engage directly with them. Be patient and honest whenever you need to explain anything, and you’re likely to find that you develop better relationships. They might remember your smile and positive attitude just as much as the work you did for them.

3) Serve your customers well

Along with your temperament and communication, the customer service you deliver is of paramount importance. Many people value it above all else, and an outstanding project with good attention to detail is certain to impress. Deliver work on time, explain to your clients why you’re doing things, and help them understand the benefits of having X over Y; they’ll soon appreciate the work you’re doing for them. If you do run into any delays or problems, just explain the problem openly to your customer. At 1Gas, we find that outstanding customer service is the single most important feature of any business.

4) Reward your customers

If your customers have shown loyalty to you, be sure to thank them for it. In other words, give them a reason to keep coming back. To do this, you could offer a discount for returning customers, a loyalty scheme that provides a free service, or bonuses for referring friends and family. If you work directly with other businesses, you can always return the favour by referring work to them too, as thanks for using your services.

5) Be better than expected

Finally, don’t forget the age-old business saying of ‘under-promise and over-deliver’. Don’t tell your customer you’ll do something if you know you won’t be able to or won’t have time. Instead, surprise them by doing the opposite. Fix a little something that’s outside the quote, provide an item free of charge, or simply work that little bit harder by turning up early, leaving late, and offering sage advice. If you help the customer wherever possible, and offer to be available for questions any time they need, you’ll be delivering exceptional customer service and going beyond expectations.

These simple little touches are easily forgotten, but they are also easy to implement. Tick all of these boxes and you are much more likely to win customers’ trust and earn their loyalty.

Teres Hager is sales and services manager at 1Gas, a UK supplier of gas connections.

Image courtesy of Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock