Most businesses understand the tremendous value associated with growing a base of loyal customers. However the old loyalty program model is getting a little tired and a little too same old, same old.

Unfortunately for many businesses, any advantage that was originally gained through loyal programs has probably evaporated. While airlines, hotel chains and stores started mainstream loyalty programs, other businesses were quick to follow and jump on the bandwagon. The result is that today every cafe, video shop and pet store has some form of loyalty card. If you kept them all your wallet would never close!

Some programs miss the point entirely and can actually drive customers away rather than attract them. Many hotel chains, for example, have loyalty programs where you accumulate points for every night you stay, unfortunately for many people though if you don't stay during a 12 month period you lose all the points you've gained! The customer may have been a good word of mouth advocate for the hotel but this penalisation for lack of activity could damage any good will they may have had.

If you really want to reap the benefits of true customer loyalty - it's time to rethink what customer loyalty really means. Customer loyalty is not obtained by holding a card, accumulating points, or redeeming rewards, nor is it a one-way street.

Instead of just considering what a customer has done for you or bought from you - try turning the tables to live your legacy and be of service. How could you measure your companies loyalty in terms of the degree to which your company is the loyal one - loyal to your customers? How do you remember repeat customers, address them as individuals, call them by their name, and treat them as the very special people they are?

On my return to the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey last month, the staff knew from their database that I had been a guest before, they welcomed me by name, thanked me for returning and informed me that they had delivered extra feather pillows to my room as per my last visit. Nice to feel remembered. Not only that but upon returning to my room one evening after a full business agenda, the room attendant had left a hand written note that she had packed away my water and apples in the fridge so they keep cold and fresh. Not only this but she mentioned noticing I had used all the milk so she had brought me extra. Excellent, personalised service.

Think about the simple lesson of customer loyalty that is demonstrated by these actions. In order to create a competitive differentiation, start rethinking how you treat your customers:

Traditional model: "What has the customer done for me lately?"
Relationship model: "What have I done lately for my most loyal customers?"

How can you provide better individual customer loyalty in your business? Consider all your touchpoints, channels, and markets. Instead of treating people like a number, find out how they want to be treated as a person and start building your business relationship based on that.

Here's a radical idea to get you started. Spend a day at their place of business and help them in any way you can. Give your actions a memorable name like "Good Will Day" or as we call it here at Leading Value - a "Random Act of Value". The most important rule for this action - expect nothing in return - just help them out and be of genuine service.

I recently spent several days helping out a local Dental Surgery as my Random Act of Value. As well as sharing my skills and boosting their morale, I found myself inspired by their inventiveness, teamwork and creativity and learnt a lot of great business ideas from them too about follow up and customer care. Not only did spending the time in the dental surgery help me build a better relationship with them, I also left with that great feeling that being of service creates in your soul.

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Why not give it a go?

Author's Bio: 

Coach, author, speaker, teacher and entrepreneur, Heidi Alexandra Pollard, The Communicators’ Coach publishes Value Ad, a free monthly ezine for smart, savvy professionals who want more prosperity, passion and purpose in life. If you’re ready to jump start your success, make more money and have more fun doing it then get your FREE tips now at © Leading Value 2011.