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Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are not the same thing, though there is a direct correlation between the two. Customer satisfaction comes into play when a customer purchases a good or service from a business and has a positive experience. Customer loyalty is a factor when consumers return to a business because they develop a relationship with the company or staff. Loyal customers come back because they feel they will get great products and be treated with a certain level of respect. Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are connected because, to become a loyal customer, a person first typically has to be a satisfied customer.
The process of having satisfied customers starts with treating each and every prospect with courtesy and respect, whether a sales associate believes the consumer will spend a lot of money or nothing at all. Excellent prices and a friendly staff will leave most customers satisfied. Conducting surveys can help businesses improve their level of customer satisfaction.
A satisfied customer can become a loyal customer when employees take things to the next level. Sales professionals should ask customers about what they hope to do with a product, what specifications they are looking for and how much they are looking to spend. It is important for all staff members at a business to be knowledgeable about what each product can do. When a consumer visits a store for a second time, he or she will likely be impressed if a sales associate remembers his or her name. It's the small things that bump satisfied customers into loyal customer territory.
Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are even more important in competitive markets such as the food and beverage industries. For example, it is possible for there to be 20 Italian restaurants or more in a single city, which can make it more difficult to find loyal customers. Restaurants that attract loyal customers likely have waiters who engage their patrons and may even treat regulars to a free dessert or cocktail from time to time. Some venues have customer loyalty programs through which people can earn a free meal for repeat visits.
Retaining clients is cheaper than marketing to attract new clients. Both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are keys to a business getting the most out of its marketing dollars. A loyal customer can be the best marketing tool a business has, because he or she will spread positive news about a brand to others, whether in general conversation with friends or on the Internet. Best of all, that customer-generated advertising is free for the business — a small bonus for providing the kind of service that produces loyal, satisfied customers.
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