Loyal customers can become your salespeople

Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold.

If you know how to make your customers feel at home in a commercial space, you can turn them into ambassadors for your business, promoting the company name, its products and boosting sales.

A new study carried out at the Department of Marketing at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business in Canada explains why it is really worth giving out those complimentary backstage passes when the show is over, placing large comfortable couches in the corner of the local bookstore, and providing a range of board games at the corner café.

Loyal customers can become “fiercely” loyal

Zeynep Arsel and colleagues examined this new marketing trend more closely. The researchers reported in the Journal of Consumer Research that fiercely loyal customers can be nurtured if they feel that sense of homeyness in your commercial space.

If you can build up an army of loyal customers, their sense of commitment to your business and enthusiasm towards it can go far beyond the norms, the authors explained.

Apart from paying higher tips, these “emotionally attached customers” become your helpers and serve as ambassadors. They set out to convince family and friends that your enterprise is exceptionally valuable.

Arsel said:

“People start to feel at home in a commercial place when they experience that place as familiar. But for that homeyness to work as a marketing tool, the sense of the familiar needs to be coupled with authentic decor, employees who are genuinely interested in what they do, high product quality and a feeling of security in the place.”

“It also helps if consumers feel like they won’t be bothered by intrusive staff or aggressive promotional tactics. For this type of marketing to work, people almost need to feel like they’re not in a commercial space at all.”

When a customer experiences a “sense of domesticity” in a commercial space, they perceive this a something completely different, a unique sensation only that restaurant, store, café or environment can provide.

Customers may feel they are receiving a personal gift

The customer in these “unique” commercial spaces has a sense of being individually cared for by the proprietor, as if he or she is receiving a personal gift. That sensation makes them become intimately familiarized with enterprise’s environment.

Zeynep Arsel, from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, along with Harmen Oppewal of Monash University, Australia, and Alain Debenedetti of Université Paris Est-IRG, France, interviewed consumers in France.

The interviewees were invited to explain how they felt, as well as their experiences, regarding commercial places they cherished the most, such as libraries, concert halls, department stores, restaurants and cafés.

Arsel said:

“Responses showed that people treat their special place as a treasured gift. In return, they want to support the establishment beyond what is expected of them. As people become attached to a commercial setting, they interpret their experiences with the place through the same ideals they would apply to private and domestic areas of their lives.”

”As a result, the commercial characteristics of their interactions in these spaces become less important than that special bond they believe to have with the commercial space.”

Building customer loyalty not so simple, but worth it

Micah Solomon, a customer service consultant, wrote in Forbes that enterprises wishing to build customer loyalty must start by making a decision:

“Are you willing to put the customer at the center of everything you do: at the center of your company or department, your daily routines, the way you hire, the way you design your web forms?”

Solomon warns against jumping too eagerly with a “Yes” answer. Placing the customer first is a more arduous, subtle and complicated venture than it sounds.

However, if you are willing and totally committed, it is definitely worth it.

The Royal Bank of Canada says it is a myth to believe that if your customers do not complain they are automatically loyal. It is also a mistake to class satisfied customers in a survey as loyal ones.

Even repeat buyers are just that, and not necessarily the company’s “loyal base of customers”.