Join Jill Griffin for an in-depth discussion in this video The role of staff in keeping best customers, part of Building Customer Loyalty.
- Here's a critical lesson I learned the hard way. The loyalty of your customers is driven by your front line. They are the face of your business. Early in my career, I was the Marketing Sales Director for AmeriSuites Hotels during its startup phase. My marketing team had spent substantial resources to identify well-qualified, frequent travelers, and to mail them a free-night coupon to turn them into a first-time guest.
We had one hotel in the chain that was a particular marketing challenge. It was hard to see from the interstate, and to add to the problem, access to the hotel, off the interstate was difficult. For this hotel we needed every new guest we could get. I got a call from the Sales Director of the location, and he reported that a prospective guest had presented the coupon at the front desk, but was turned away. The coupon had expired the day before, and despite the fact that there were plenty of rooms available, the front desk wouldn't honor it.
The customer left angry and disappointed. The instant taught me a very valuable lesson. Although I had communicated the mechanics of the promotion to the front line, I had failed to build a larger vision to the staff about why the program was in place, and why customer loyalty was the result we were after. Had I built the bigger vision, the coupon would have been honored and by acknowledging the expired date to the new customer, the hotel could have won repeat business.
But there's another big lesson here as well. Empowered, positive employees are essential in growing happy, loyal clients. Looking back on the hotel incident, I can see now that the front desk staff wasn't empowered. They weren't given the latitude to make the customer happy. The culture was not designed so staff could own the customer experience. Instead, staff was encouraged to simply follow the rules.
But here's the thing -- If you want to build customer loyalty, you don't start with the customer. You start with the employee. And here's some tips to help you turn employees into customer loyalty-makers. Hire people with a service mindset. There's an aspect to good customer service that's unteachable. Experience has taught me there are certain attitudes that some people bring to their job that predispose them to being an effective deliverer of service.
These attitudes include, kindness, helpfulness, a genuine desire to see other people happy, and taking pride in doing things well. Be sure you recruit for these attitudes. Next , seek out employee feedback. People, want to work for and with people that care about them. Tom Schmitt, President and CEO of FedEx Global Supply Chain, calls each of his 550 employees on his or her birthday.
When he calls he asks what is the biggest single thing they're working on, and what problems are they facing? It takes just five minutes to have that conversation, but it demonstrates so much more -- that Tom cares about his employees, and these conversations give him a collective pulse about what's going on. Finally, reward employees on building customer loyalty. Consider assigning service reps in teams to specific customers.
Then reward reps for building loyalty. For example, a monthly reward for the rep or team with the most returning customers. A monthly reward for the rep with the most first-time customers that came because of referrals from existing customers. So remember this -- reward your employees on behaviors that will nurture long-term customer relationships.