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The Ladder Of Customer Loyalty - Turning Prospects Into Evangelists

Monday 19 September, 2011
Every business owner dreams of maximising the number of evangelists for their business. Evangelists are the people who will shout your praises from the roof-top and help you in building an ever-expanding loyal customer base - all for free. What more can you ask for? But how do you turn your prospects into evangelists?

This is not an automatic thing - you need to have systems and processes in place that make the customer experience heavenly.

This is where the "Ladder of Customer Loyalty" comes in. It is a customer categorisation with seven levels. You start with people who might be your potential customers. While keeping them engaged with your great product line and amazing customer service, you keep increasing their level of loyalty. Eventually, you will have an evangelist for your business.

The "Ladder of Customer Loyalty" 

First, let's take a look at the different levels of the "Ladder of Customer Loyalty":

  1. Suspect 

    The first level is that of people who might be potential buyers. This is essentially anybody who could buy from you. For example, if your product is available in Melbourne only, then the whole of Melbourne (regardless of demographics, target market, etc.) would be your suspect.
  2. Prospects 

    The second level is that of people who are the potential buyers of your product or service. They haven't bought from you yet, but they have expressed some form of interest. This interest could be in the form of a phone call inquiry or a request for quote. The greatest cost in running a business is that of getting a prospect. Advertising budgets speak for themselves.
  3. Customers 

    The third level is that of people who buy from you. The critical factor here, is the fact that most people are just one-time buyers. So, the company has to go out there and find new prospects. Some businesses spend millions on prospecting strategies, which lead to lead generation. Out of these leads some buy from you and some don't. If the buyers are just one-time buyers then you have to repeat the whole process again and again. This is costly - and the main reason why you must focus on taking customers to next level.
  4. Clients 

    Clients are repeat customers. They buy form you more than once. This is important - as they have found your product / service good enough to use again.
  5. Members 

    Members are the people who feel part of your tribe. They have a sense of ownership with your offerings. Loyalty cards, memberships, etc. are all examples of techniques to get to this level. Achieving this level helps in communicating with your market.
  6. Advocate 

    Advocates are people who, when asked, will recommend your company. Many people take recommendations and a second opinion before they buy a new product. So, if you are a restaurant owner and have advocate level clientage, then you can expect some new guests when they are asked if they can recommend a good restaurant. 
  7. Evangelists 

    Evangelists are the people who don't need to be asked! They are walking, talking testimonials of your product / service. They can't stop talking about you. Nowadays, people rarely believe what you have to say about yourself. They are more interested and trusting in what others have to say about you.

    Making evangelists for your business is even more important today. With the boom of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), your customers can communicate better amongst themselves. A good or bad review can make or break your business in today's tech world.

Moving up the ladder

How do you take a suspect through the levels of the customer loyalty ladder to be an evangelist for your business? The most important factor here is the culture of your business. Your sales team must not think of a sale as the end. They should think of a sale, not as "closing a deal" but as "opening an opportunity".

You must have great people who live and breathe by this culture. It is a great idea to have a rewards program in your business for sales team members who move customers up the loyalty ladder. Having different levels of service for different customers is another helpful factor.

It is the systems, technology and right attitude that, when in place, will take your company to new levels of customer relationship. You'll see your evangelist list expanding all the time! Here are some tips:

  1. Customer service policy

    Put it in writing! This could be a statement or a detailed description which lays the basis for how your salespeople or employees are going to resolve an issue. For example, you may have a statement that advises employees they have the right to give unsatisfied customers a 20% discount on their purchased product / service.
  2. Support systems

    There should be established support systems that provide employees with clear instructions about the level of service required. This set-up will allow your employees to acknowledge possible problems and initiate superior customer service at all times.
  3. Measure customer service

    Acknowledge and reward those employees who practice good customer service and maintain a high standard. Ensure you set a precedent for customer service and your employees will happily follow, as they will see the benefits financially and in the long-term.
  4. Be committed

    Be committed to providing good customer service. Make this a reason why your customers would recommend you to others and return to purchase more. As a competitor to others in your industry, customer service is where you can beat them every time.

Author Credits

Tony Gattari is Founder and Chief Energy Officer of Achievers group. He is a much in demand passionate professional speaker, business educator, author and corporate, business advisor. He has worked with over 140 businesses around the world. For further information please Phone: 02 9440 7373; Email: tony@achieversgroup.com.au, or visit the Website: www.achieversgroup.com.au
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