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The Single Best Way to Build Customer Loyalty

To create customers loyal enough to stand in line for you, start by earning the loyalty of your employees. And there's only one way to do that.
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 In a world where careers have become as portable as cell phones and BlackBerrys, ordinary loyalty is fast disappearing from the business landscape.  It shows.  Loyalty is the foremost ingredient in long-term sales relationships.  The lack of it is why more and more deals are struck on price alone.

One of the first qualities that I look for in both friends and employees is loyalty.  A friend is only an acquaintance without loyalty. And a worker can be great in many ways, but if he or she isn’t loyal, their employment puts the company in jeopardy.

Employee loyalty begins with employer loyalty.  Your employees should know that if they do the job they were hired to do with a reasonable amount of competence and efficiency, you will support them.  You will take an interest in their career advancement and give them the tools they need to perform effectively.  In return, you can expect that your work force is prepared to give their best effort every day. 

Fostering employee loyalty, in turn, is the first step in fostering customer loyalty.  We at Mackay-Mitchell have customers who will buy from us even when they can get a lower price somewhere else, or quicker turnaround, or better service. 

But change all those or's in the previous sentence into and's, and your customers will start to question your loyalty to them.  The same holds true for employees.  You can’t keep them guessing how they will be treated and expect them to give their best to you. Show loyalty to your employees and loyalty to your customers, and it will be returned: It's a two-way, maybe a three-way street.

Frederick Reichheld, author of “Loyalty Rules,” believes that loyalty is the fuel that drives financial success.  Based on extensive research into companies from online start-ups to established institutions, such as Harley Davidson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Cisco Systems, Dell Computer, Intuit and more, Reichheld reveals six bedrock principles of loyalty upon which leaders build enduring enterprises.

  1. Play to win/win.  Never profit at the expense of partners.
  2. Be picky.  Membership must be a privilege.
  3. Keep it simple.  Reduce complexity for speed and flexibility.
  4. Reward the right results.  Worthy partners deserve worthy goals.
  5. Listen hard and talk straight.  Insist on honest, two-way communication and learning.
  6. Preach what you practice.  Explain your principles, then live by them.

I couldn’t agree more.  

 Mackay’s Moral:  Encourage employees to ask questions, but they should never have to question your loyalty.

Last updated: Dec 22, 2011

HARVEY MACKAY | Columnist | Founder, MackayMitchell Envelope Co.

Harvey Mackay, author of The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, is founder of the MackayMitchell Envelope Co. He has written six bestsellers, including Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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