Join Jill Griffin for an in-depth discussion in this video Methods for creating customer loyalty, part of Building Customer Loyalty.
- Every world class company consciously creates the system for getting and keeping best customers. Just ask Doug Burgum, who in 1983 purchased Great Plains Software in Fargo, North Dakota, at the ripe old age of 27. Doug brought a unique perspective that originated from his summers as a kid working for his relatives' grain elevator business. Doug said, "When you've got a grain elevator, "the people you serve are landowners, "and they move the ownership of that land to their children.
"You served customers for a lifetime." Doug brought the passion for lifetime customers to his new acquisition. He bought Great Plains because it offered online accounting systems that could compete with those produced by larger companies. He had the right product. Now he needed a system to help him keep customers for life. He began early on to compile a state of the art customer list and turn it into the company's number one loyalty tool.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the company designed into each user package, a code that, after 50 transactions, blocked work. To unlock the software, customers were required to call Great Plains and get their individual 10 digit number that would serve as a key. When customers called in, the company registered them as users and asked 20 or so research questions, including name, location, type of business and company size.
The company explained to the new users that by registering their name, Great Plains could contact them regarding program changes, problems and upgrades. The system continues today, and is credited with enabling the company to have a database of every end user of its software. Over time, Great Plains invested in a costly call distribution system that was bridged to the customer database. When users called, they were asked to punch in their 10 digit number, enabling the system to determine who was calling, which software programs that user owned, and which technical support plan pertained.
The call was then routed to a Great Plains technical specialist trained in those programs. Moreover, the specialist could identify how frequently the user had called, who handled past calls, and what advice was given over the past six months. Customers loved it, and referrals poured in. Microsoft noticed it as well, and in the year 2000, the software giant purchased Great Plains for $1.1 billion.
So how can you create a system for keeping best customers? Build a customer loyalty system. Do it by capturing each customer's contact information, and tracking their purchases. Keep this information up-to-date, know your loyalty stages, and ensure your customers are moving through them. By understanding your customer's current loyalty stage, you can better determine what's necessary to move that customer to the next level of loyalty.
The system I teach comprises six stages. Suspect, you suspect this person has a need for your services, but without more information you can't be sure. Prospect, this person has a need for what you're selling, and the ability to buy. First-time customer, this person has bought once. They are a trier. Repeat customer, the person has bought from you twice or more. Client, the person is buying everything you sell that they can realistically be expected to buy.
Advocate, this person routinely buys all that you sell, but also encourages others to buy from you. If your processes and systems aren't moving customers through these stages, rethink them. Finally, embed your customer information system into your firm's culture. Train employees across departments on how to use the data to win the loyalty of best customers.
Keeping and maintaining accurate customer records is critical to building customer loyalty. Use these tips I just discussed, and you'll be well on your way to building loyal customers.