How to Turn Customers Into Loyal Brand Ambassadors

5 steps to retaining the loyal customer base you’ve always dreamed of.
Mordechai Alvow, owner of popular natural hair salon Yarok Beauty Kitchen in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, believes that treating others the same way that you would want to be treated has been key to maintaining his loyal client base. (Photo: Mordechai Alvow)
Mordechai Alvow, owner of popular natural hair salon Yarok Beauty Kitchen in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, believes that treating others the same way that you would want to be treated has been key to maintaining his loyal client base. (Photo: Mordechai Alvow)

Building a loyal customer base is essential to the long­-term strategic growth of a small business.

Here are five ways you can turn your customers into loyal brand ambassadors.

1. Create a personal relationship

Customizing the business interaction increases your value to the customer. Remember your loyal customers’ names, their preferences and their usual orders, and even a little bit about them personally. For example, always remember to send them a birthday salute. Building a personal relationship means repeat customers who will more likely recommend you to others.

Mordechai Alvow, owner of popular natural hair salon Yarok Beauty Kitchen in New York City, believes that treating others the same way that you would want to be treated has been key to maintaining his loyal client base through the years.

“We often call to just say, ‘Hello, we haven’t seen you in a while, how are you doing?’” Alvow said. “My team is very sensitive to understanding how each client wants to be served.”

2. Use customer loyalty programs

Providing loyalty programs for customers is a smart way to say “thank you,” motivate repeat visits and recruit brand ambassadors.

Laura Ferro, owner of the Galley Cafe in Philadelphia, said she’s found that the simplest incentives are often the most effective.

“We offer coffee and smoothie punch cards, which keep regulars coming back for a free treat on us,” she said.

“We offer coffee and smoothie punch cards which keeps regulars coming back for a free treat on us!” - Laura Ferro, owner of Galley Cafe

“We offer coffee and smoothie punch cards which keeps regulars coming back for a free treat on us!” – Laura Ferro, owner of Galley Cafe (Photo: Laura Ferro)

Alvow said he also offers discounted services to loyal clients who invite friends and family to experience Yarok Beauty Kitchen. “And when a new product launches, we always send our loyal clientele the new product to try out first.”

Small business owners should also be aware of the many cost­-effective digital rewards programs that are just as useful as the ones put in place by big companies.

3. Rely on the right POS system

Ferro said leaning on a fast and efficient POS system is vital to keeping the Galley Cafe running smoothly and her regulars coming back.

“A lot of people like to get their coffee and breakfast with us before work, so they’re in a rush and their experience at Galley Cafe has to be quick,” Ferro said. “Having our POS system process credit cards fast, deliver receipts promptly and store customers’ email addresses is paramount. This doesn’t just help us provide the kind of service our customers are looking for, but it allows us stay in touch with our regulars and provide them with weekly specials, discounts and announcements.”

4. Make support a priority

Make it easy for your customers to contact you. This, in turn, creates goodwill and positive feelings that will bolster customers’ satisfaction and keep them loyal. A Mattersight study of more than 1,000 consumers found that one bad customer experience could stop 70 percent of them from purchasing from that brand again.

One action that can immediately improve your customers’ experiences is placing all of your support options and contact information on one easily accessible page on your website. Many businesses try to bury their customer support phone number in hard-­to-find corners of a website, hoping customers won’t be able to find it and instead try to reach the business via less costly methods, like email and user forums. That can cause frustration and confusion.

5. Turn a complaint into an opportunity

Businesses should not treat a complaining customer like a lost cause. Your customers are taking time out of their busy day to pick up the phone or write you an email to tell you about their experience. See these complaints as an opportunity, not a burden, and look at each complaining customer as a way to win them over and learn something about your business.

When a customer complains about your business, they are essentially telling you what they value and, ultimately, what you must do to retain their loyalty.

Give your staff a set of predetermined tools with which to make amends based on the nature of the issue. For example, if a customer thinks your business operated too slowly, you know that customer values speed, so you can offer a free shipping upgrade on their next order.

As you revamp your business’ approach to customer retention, even with just a few small tweaks, it’s important to remember that the job of retaining customers is never finished. A good small business owner should continually work to earn each and every customer’s loyalty and trust.

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