Customer Loyalty in 5 Proven Steps
Marian Hinebauch, president and CEO of Las Vegas-based Logo Droppers, doesn’t mind the nickname she’s earned. With more than 15 years in the printed apparel industry and her keen attention to detail, she’s known as “Eagle Eye.” With her nickname, Hinebauch has built a loyal base of lifelong customers.
“I want every new customer to be part of the Logo Droppers family,” Hinebauch says. “I don’t want a customer saying, ‘I want 25 jackets for my Christmas party,’ and then never seeing them again after the order is complete.” That’s why, if a prospect comes in her shop, once Hinebauch has vetted them as a potential client, she really gets to know them so she can offer above-and-beyond service.
Here are five steps that Hinebauch recommends you take to create a loyal customer base.
1. Find out everything you can about your customers.
The first step to cultivating a great relationship with a new customer is the same as any good relationship—getting to know them, along with their needs and goals. Hinebauch does a deep dive into every prospect company or individual she meets.
“Really draw them in,” Hinebauch says. “Let them know you want to be invested in them and their business and try to find out what their needs are. Then, propose solutions for those needs.” In her experience, she’s learned that many companies don’t realize exactly what they need in terms of decorated gear. She recommends always upselling or cross-selling, even with that very first order.
2. Hire your A-Team.
As the owner of a decorated-apparel business, you aren’t always going to be the person in direct contact with every customer. That’s why it’s key that what’s important to you and your business is equally important to your employees. Hinebauch makes it a point to train every employee on the importance of customer service, including the front office staff.
“Last week, my office manager and I role-played in front of our newest front-of-office employee,” Hinebauch says. “I pretended I was a brand-new customer. I said, ‘OK, I need three shirts for my son’s Christmas party.’ My office manager responded with a list of pertinent questions. Our new employee was amazed, since she wouldn’t have even thought about asking prospects those questions.”
Hinebauch also advises shop owners to build a team culture in their companies, so everyone feels equal and knows they’re working toward the same goals. “It’s really empowering to your staff when you do that,” she says, “and then customers benefit from it. And, they stick around.”
3. Be proactive, and then some.
Sometimes you need to know what the customer wants or needs before they do. Hinebauch continues her deep dive into every customer, long after that initial meeting. She periodically looks over their accounts to see how many times per year they order and what each order entails, so she can suggest to them items they may have never considered.
“Our aquatics company customer holds an annual golf tournament,” Hinebauch says. “The bags they normally used had been discontinued, and I had found a bag that was 60% off. It wasn’t even their ‘color,’ but would save them $5 a bag.”
After the client saw (and loved) the sample, they bought 150 bags. “I never would have gotten that order if I didn’t think outside the box for my customer,” Hinebauch says.
4. Make every customer feel absolutely amazing.
When you make each customer feel important, closing that sale becomes that much easier. “When you’re a solutions provider ahead of being an order taker, you inspire your clients to stay with you much longer,” Hinebauch says. “Be more of a partner to them.”
Hinebauch is a huge proponent of staying true to your word with new and existing customers. “Don’t tell someone you’re going to order a sample in, but then not do it for another week,” Hinebauch says, “or tell a customer you’re going to send a proof by Friday, and then send it the following Tuesday. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.”
Making customers feel like they matter also means that you follow up regularly with them. Many businesses tend to forget about customers once the order is out the door and complete. That’s why Hinebauch encourages shop owners to see the “sale” through long past the time the bill is paid. “Don’t forget about your customers,” she says. “Continually look for ways to provide solutions to them.”
5. Be ‘Customer-Obsessed.’
“I’m all about ‘customer obsession,’” Hinebauch says. “We have meetings pretty often in my shop. I start each meeting by talking about customer obsession and end it with customer obsession. Some of my employees laugh, “can we use another word”. I tell them they’ll never not hear me talk about customer obsession.”
Hinebauch’s devotion to her customers started with something her dad always said to her when she was a child. “Treat every single person the same.” That includes the office staff all the way up to the CEO. I’ve taken that to heart,” she says.
Customer obsession also encompasses employee obsession at Logo Droppers. “Some of my employees have been with me for over 10 years,” Hinebauch says with a massive smile. The company culture includes fun and friendliness, which her team then extends to customers.
Finally, Hinebauch has a referral program in place so that her happy, long-term clients can refer other businesses to her. “Those already are very warm leads, since they’re coming to us from satisfied repeat customers,” she says.
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