Keeping existing clients is much less expensive than finding new ones. Getting new customers would involve advertising, marketing, and sales costs. We are also quite aware that satisfied existing customers encourage referrals and attract new customers. How then do you ensure customer loyalty? OurPass invited three professionals, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Hamid Goodman and Praise Ayodele, to talk about how small businesses can achieve and sustain customer loyalty:
Kindly, introduce yourself.
Praise: Hi, everybody my name is Praise Ayodele. I am a growth guy. I love to grow businesses, and make more money for them through sales coaching and brand marketing. I am an author and I love to see a lot of people like me thrive.
Goodman: My name is Hameed, but my friends call me Goodman. I am a brand designer and also the founder of Hingees lifestyle brand.
Emmanuel: My name is Emmanuel Oyeleke. I am a photographer, a visual artist and also a serial entrepreneur. I dabble in so many things. I’m a sports person too. I started my brand in 2012, it’s been 10 years of learning, iterating, making mistakes and getting back up.
Why do you think it’s crucial for businesses to build customer loyalty and how do you think it helps the business grow?
Goodman: One of the key things to building loyalty is to actually make the customer know that there is a human being on the other side. Instead of having a machine or automated responses when customers have enquiries. People want to feel that connection to another human on the other side and that drives into customer service. Having amazing customer service is something that can really impact how customers relate to your brand and it can definitely drive loyalty to the brand. So, customer service is very key to nailing for loyalty.
Emmanuel: Every business thinking about sustainability or longevity has to think about loyalty because no matter how much you spend on marketing when you have loyalty it helps your brand much more. Customer loyalty is very important because you don’t just want to make a one-off sale. First and foremost one way you can build customer loyalty is to have a good product. This enables you to give the customers what they want. Another way is to have a human side, to think and not just take a dogged or rigid approach to do business.
In your experience do you think Nigerian businesses are big on customer loyalty strategies, and if not how do you think it affects the Nigerian business scene?
Praise: Do I think Nigerian businesses are big on customer loyalty? I think that’s an extensive generalization but mostly, no, they are not. A good number of businesses are just selfish. We also do not have laws protecting customers, so it’s easy for them to just override the customers and give them the body language of “What are you going to do about it?”. You’ve heard of people placing orders online, via Instagram, via social media only to have the opposite of what they ordered delivered to them and these guys block them, leaving them with sub-valued goods and nothing to do about it.
One of my favourite quotes says, ‘’ People don’t remember what you said to them or what you did too, but how you made them feel’’. If many businesses have this at the back of their minds while relating with customers, it’s going to affect the economy of Nigeria. Of course, the more happy customers you’ve got, the more money you get in your business, in extension that affects the micro economy, the macroeconomy and money flow.
What are the strategies you think small businesses can employ to sustain customer loyalty?
Praise: This brings you to the question of why should they be loyal to you. We are in a phase where nobody will swear their allegiance to you if you aren’t worth it. Your product design, is it worth it? Is the service you’re offering worth it? Is the product you’re bringing to the table worth it? Are you giving us something that we are not getting somewhere else? No one wants to be loyal to something that is mediocre. Firstly, I would say create a fantastic product. Secondly, clearly define your market. Don’t just produce extensively and expect everybody to be loyal to you, target the right people. Next is to put the right people into your product. Don’t just create a product because you want to do so. Write books you want to read. Sing songs you would love to hear, don’t just sing songs and expect people to figure it out. Finally, brands need to start asking for their customers’ opinions before they create new products. They should take customers' feedback as important or they’re going to be stranded, broken or wiped off just like other businesses that have gone before them.
Emmanuel: We need to go back. First thing first. Why do people do the things they do? Why do businesses get into the business? In a country like Nigeria, there are 60% of businesses founded based on the fact that they needed to make money. Once the ideology behind the business is wrong, I think there’s not so much you can do about what you build on it. For instance, a business that is set out to make a profit above every other thing. Whereas if you need to sustain customer loyalty, you need to build a business that is based on empathy, that is based on creating value for your customers, the first thing cannot be 'profit'.
Using myself as an example, starting up in 2012, I was very exuberant about what I wanted to do. I finished my youth service, I studied computer science, but at that point, I just decided that I was going to do photography.
I remember my first business guide, on it was written ‘delivering happiness’, that was the tagline for my photography for a long time. That was what drove my passion for the business. As long I could put a smile on someone’s face because of my picture then I was fulfilled.
In essence, I was not about delivering a business that would take your money, although I love your money but I would love to deliver value to you and see you happy. It is fundamental for you to have at the back of your mind something more profound than just making money. This enables you to gain the customer's loyalty. It grows the economy.
Goodman: The basis of businesses is starting right. A lot of people only care about the profit they would make, they don’t care about the value they are giving out which is very key. Using Hingees as an example, a lot of things that we do involve putting our customers first and, in a way, extend to the artisans we work with.
If you are putting your customers first it would definitely extend to whatever you are making and the customers would feel it. With social media, customers would always sense the slightest form of insincerity. So, if you’re not putting customers first it’s definitely going to reflect in whatever you are putting out. Nigeria is a low-trust environment, but offering proper value will definitely drive loyalty.
Can you describe a situation in which you had to go above and beyond to please a customer? Explain how you lost and then won them back?
Emmanuel: A customer rented a particular backdrop for a photography project. I wasn’t in the loop, I only dropped in once in a while to check the conversations on different channels. On this fateful day, I dropped in and discovered that a lady had complained that the backdrop wasn’t what she expected, that she didn’t like what she was getting. When I saw this, I wasn’t happy about it, I could sense distrust and I picked up the conversation, offering her examples of different people shooting with the background. After I did this she was like “This is nice, this is exactly what I want to go for”, and she needed the inspiration. That could have escalated to something else, where she rented a backdrop and thought she wouldn’t get what she wanted but a simple bit of education on how to use it and how others did just went a long way to help.
Praise, you wrote a book called ‘’CUSTOMER IS GOD’’ and there’s a popular notion in business that customer is always right, tell us if you agree with this idea and how you believe it promotes customer loyalty.
Praise: Customers are not always right, but “Customer is God” is typically telling you that without customers your business will not exist. You would agree with me that every business exists because you want to make money and it is your customer who brings the money either as a service provider or a product-led growth company. You need customers to give you money. Does that mean that customers are always right? No, customers are humans like you so they can be emotionally deficient sometimes. How do you handle your customers with the understanding that they are important to your business? How you treat them, keep them in check and keep them coming back to your business is the sole purpose of the book “Customer is God”.
Goodman, as the owner of Hingees, how do you personalize marketing such that customers can relate to the brand?
Goodman: We’ve integrated a CRM from day 1, so we have the details of our customers, aside from that we tried to create a personal connection with our customers on social media, especially on Instagram. So beyond blasting out emails or messages all the time, we try as much as possible to be personal. In 2020, we did a loyalty program where we wrote handwritten notes to some of our best customers. They were not expecting it, it caught up on social media, and it was really mind-blowing. The way CRM (Customer Relationship Management Software) works, it helps you segment your customers' information into different categories based on how you set them up. Probably based on the kind of product they order, frequency of the order, and the amount they’ve spent on your business. You can actually tailor your message directly based on some of these parameters, other than just blasting out messages to everybody. We also started something this year which has been really fantastic. After every quarter we put our customers' data together to look at everybody that has ordered within that period. Then we give them a call to get feedback on some of the things they’ve ordered and also get insight into what they are looking forward to from the brand. All these put together help us create that personal connection with our customers.
Emmanuel, as a photographer you offer a service that requires you to physically interact with your customers. How do you ensure that you leave them feeling satisfied?
Emmanuel: The answer also stems from the brand culture. Whenever I have an engagement to interface with my customers; probably via a photoshoot or going to a location or an event. The whole idea is to have them enjoy themselves as much as possible. Not a lot of people like being directed or photographed for long hours, it’s actually a lot of work.
I try to create a holistic and awesome experience for them from the time I speak to them even if it is via email, up to the finish. It’s not just one thing, it’s in the way you sound, the way you dress, the way you make them feel when you are there, in the environment, it’s in your confidence because when they see that you are not confident it affects their morale. It has a combination of everything, your interpersonal skills, people skills, your emotional skills, and emotional intelligence. Everything has to come to play when you talk about making your clients leave satisfied and wanting to come back for more. We deliver the comfort and happiness that money really can’t buy.
In this current inflation climate, a lot of businesses and brands are forced to increase the prices of their services and their products. How can they do this while still retaining the loyalty of their customers?
Goodman: You have to be honest, that’s just it. Customers are humans. It’s just about being transparent and honest, letting them know the situation of things. Being honest is something businesses should add to part of their values. Your customers are humans, the moment you are able to let them in on what is going on, on the other side, they would also acknowledge it.
Praise: In my book 'Customer is God', I wrote that empathy and data are very powerful secrets in keeping your customers happy. Firstly, they are not oblivious to what is going on but they need you to retreat with a tone that reminds them that you are in business with them and they want to hear from you. Empathy as a form of feedback is key to any finance whether the prices go up or it goes down, whatever the change maybe you need to be empathetic about it. Empathy, not sympathy. Sympathy brings you to the point where you have to drown your business to make your customers happy but empathy brings them to the table where they can see your point. If they are your customers they wouldn’t be hard to convince. On the days they cannot buy still keep in touch with them.
What qualities does one need to have as a business owner in other to keep their customers happy?
Emmanuel: Integrity is very important. I would also say conscientiousness.
Goodman: We should also prioritize emotional relationships beyond just transactional relationships. Making them know that you value the business they are bringing to you is something that as a founder should be trickled down to other members of staff of the business, for them to be a part of it to drive things forward.
Praise: Under promise, over deliver. Be a superman for them. Secondly, check up on them randomly, it’s not just about business. People are going through a lot, let your relationship with them go beyond money. Let your customer turn into family, that’s how you build allegiance for your services. That’s how you keep them closer. Number three is, to ask for feedback. Don’t create a product from your head. Without their feedback you are serving yourself- then you would be wondering why you’re doing so much and getting a little result. Lastly, give gifts. It makes people smile. You will be on their list when it comes to referrals and recommendations. Plus gifts also puts you in the face of advertisements and it invariably expands your customer base, sustains customer loyalty, builds a sustainable brand and helps you make money.
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