Customer satisfaction – I’ve heard it… you’ve heard it a gazillion times. Businesses, large and small, striving to fulfill their customers needs and desires. Doing everything they can to meet the customer’s expectations or demands; seemingly believing that as long as they have content customers those customers will continue to buy from their businesses – forever. Well, sort of.

A survey conducted by The Sales Board suggests that 75% of customers who leave a company for a competitor say they were satisfied or even very satisfied with the company they left. Twenty five percent of those who defect from a company say they left for a lower price, while 10% leave because their needs have changed. Having a satisfied customer doesn’t mean you have a customer for life even though most of us think that to be the case.

So when it comes to having a customer for life, satisfaction just won’t cut it. As business leaders we have to create – no, actually we have to earn – customer loyalty. A truly loyal customer couldn’t imagine an offer from a business’s competitor that would tempt them away. These customers have for all intents and purposes, stopped shopping. The relationship with that business is too valuable to consider giving up. Do you have customers that loyal? Are you that passionately loyal to some of the businesses providing products or services to you or your business?

I had a personal experience just this week that illustrates the difference between satisfaction versus loyalty. I’m a pretty avid runner and purchase running shoes 2-3 times per year. There’s a retail specialty running store from which I have always had a good customer experience. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they have a large selection from which to choose. Yet, that’s not where I bought my last pair of shoes. Instead I purchased from another specialty retailer who I was “satisfied” with after having purchased other products there before. The team member wasn’t overly engaging, in other words service wasn’t over the top, and without asking me any detail questions about my running style he recommended and I purchased a brand of shoes I have never worn before.

Fast forward two months and a hundred plus miles of running with these shoes and I’m having a foot problem. So instead of going back to where I purchased them I went to the store where I knew I would get the personal service necessary to solve my problem. The clerk and running specialist who helped me was totally engaging. She told me her name, asked me mine, asked questions about my running style and running history or previous problems. She analyzed my foot structure, and then gave me several shoe recommendations. Essentially I learned that the shoes I had been running on were not what I needed and were creating my foot problems. The whole interaction reaffirmed why I will not shop other stores for my running shoes ever again.

So here’s the deal about customer loyalty: loyalty doesn’t come from creating loyalty programs that encourages large-volume or long-term buying by offering discounts or special packaging. Who doesn’t have some kind of loyalty program now? Businesses that only rely on a program to encourage customer loyalty are missing the boat. Customers may be attracted to your program, and satisfied by it, but only until they are wooed away by another program.

When it comes to generating real loyalty a business’s greatest asset is the potential of its team. All customers, and especially B2B clients, are most apt to become loyal when they have developed a bond with a particular team member. Salespeople and team members who market not just their company or products but themselves provide something much more valuable. They create a relationship.

Do your team members develop relationships with your company’s customers? Are they outgoing and engaging? Do they ask the right questions to dig to the root of the customers needs? Are they able to leverage the company’s resources to provide good solutions for the customer? Do they care enough to foster a relationship that will keep that customer coming back and buying from your business – forever?

Satisfaction is about being content. It’s obvious that meeting customer expectations is critical to operating a successful business, but customer expectations change without notice. Your satisfied customer is still shopping.

Loyalty is about being faithful. Loyal customers see the value in doing business with your company not just because of the products or services you provide, but because of the relationship they have with someone in your business on your team. They couldn’t see themselves going anywhere else. They’ve stopped shopping.

Your challenge is to lead your team from one that services your content customers to one that earns the customer’s loyalty.

Author's Bio: 

Asa Beavers gained much of his business knowledge in the corporate world where he held positions in sales, management, marketing, and training, but it was his hands-on small business experiences that shaped him for his true passion, helping others build and grow a business.

Asa's found success in his business by helping others achieve success!

A very wise person once shared with Asa that most things in life “are a process, not an event”. Instant gratification rarely comes in business, or in life for that matter. Enjoy the process, have patience, and persevere.