Today’s savvy business owners understand that a faithful customer base is the lifeblood of their business. After all, customer loyalty increases profits, improves sales success, and allows for sustainable growth. This is on top of the fact that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining existing ones (in fact, some studies indicate that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one).
However, anyone who’s sought out loyalty knows it’s no walk in the park to earn. Conventional thinking suggests that winning lasting customers is just about having the latest technology at a very low price — along with good installation services. However, earning customer loyalty is much more complex.
In truth, loyalty takes intense dedication from the seller’s side to earn; more than high-quality services and especially more than low prices, it requires a consistent understanding of the customer’s business issues and challenges. What builds loyalty better than anything else is a clear demonstration of this understanding, and earnest work in addressing those issues. Customers need to know you’re invested in their growth and success, and when it comes to UC&C, that typically comes from more than selling a one-off telephone system.
For proof of this, we just have to look at how other companies build loyalty with their customers. It never happens overnight, or just through slashed prices, or through placating their feelings. Rather, it happens over time, and always as a result of the seller addressing the issue at the root of the customer’s business situation. This in turn builds trust, giving the customer a solid foundation to rely upon you as a strategic advisor for business needs.
Think about your own case a second: what brands are you loyal to? Because I’ll bet your first choice for anything you need is not just the brand with quality service or low prices, but the one that you know understands you and attends to your issues.
I’m no different, of course. As a constant traveler, my personal example is Marriott Hotels. Anytime I travel, I book at a Marriott, not just because I like their rooms — it’s also because, no matter my travel situation, I trust Marriott to listen to me and solve my problem right away. Frankly, thanks to that sense of value, when I travel, I don’t bother looking at anywhere but a Marriott.
This didn’t happen because of their prices or even the added perks of a loyalty program. Actually, it happened for the simple reason that Marriott has consistently shown me they’re ready and eager to address my business need, which is getting a quiet room right away. When I’m traveling and I call a Marriott location, I know they’ll tailor the experience to my needs: I’ll arrive without having to waste time checking in at the front desk, and the hotel will have a nice, quiet room ready for me.
In so few words, I trust this brand because they’ve shown me that, no matter where I go or when I call them, they’ll address my specific needs. They take the complications out of my business issue and all the while make me feel that my trust in them is well placed.
In thinking about how to earn loyalty, we ought to think in terms of care and reliability. When a customer is deciding on whether to stick with a business, most likely they’re thinking, “Can I communicate with them easily? Can I count on them, and what is the business value that I am receiving from this relationship?”
All told, we might go so far as to conceive of loyalty as a two-way street between buyer and seller. Sure, to exist at all there has to be that customer returning to you, the business owner. But earning those repeat visits takes care, attention and full commitment to their success and business needs.
So, as we weigh all these points, we come to the big question: How is an MSP supposed to win loyalty?
There’s no single answer here, of course, just as there wouldn’t be a single answer for any other business vertical. But in general, there are some key points that are valuable to explore.
First off, yes — winning loyalty will take excellent products and services. It’s just a fact that customers are only going to buy from a business that brings them a positive business outcome, and you’ll need to deliver that to keep them satisfied.
The counterpoint, however, is that plenty of other businesses can provide excellent products and services. To stand out, you need more than just the newest technology and services.
To do so, it’s critical to embrace not so much the tangible points or rewards of a loyalty program, but the principle that a loyalty program represents. You have to give them a sense of belonging and exclusivity if you want to see any belonging given back.
Communication is indispensable here. There are two principles to follow here: being frequent and just as importantly, forthright. Any customers that you haven’t been in contact with for a while are ones you should check up on, because frankly, they need to get more from you before they’ll give anything on their end. If you’re providing them software or hardware as a service, you’ll have a far and away easier time of this, since you’re bringing them what they need on a regular rollout to begin with.
As for being forthright, this comes down to honesty in your communications. As you talk to your customer, ask yourself: Are you acting as the expert, or are you buckling to the customer’s limited industry knowledge? Are you recommending something that solves their core business issue, or are you just following what they think is right? The challenge here is not just telling them what they should do but making sure you’re invested in the outcome that you create.
What never, ever builds loyalty in this market, however, is boiling everything down to price. If all a customer cares about is the lowest possible number, they aren’t looking for someone to stay with; they’ll be fine shopping around on every system they buy. Odds are, they’ll find someone willing to dip lower than the cost you present. As an MSP, will your business really gain any value from these kinds of customers? Are you winning a sale, but losing revenue in the process?
Really, despite the channel’s obsession with cutting prices and margins, boiling everything down to a lower monthly fee isn’t what keeps customers coming back. Loyalty, when it comes down to it, only happens when you strike a particular balance of personal and practical value. Crafting that kind of relationship certainly takes effort, but it’s effort that pays off exponentially over time.
If you want to succeed, remember that the people who’ve bought from you before are a potential goldmine waiting to be tapped. The only way they’ll open up, though, is if you give them enough reason to — both when it comes to tangible outcomes and the less tangible sense of relationship.
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