Customer Loyalty- B2B
Businesses often fall in the trap of thinking that because their customers are happy, that they will remain in the fold. Global competition has brought about switching options that did not exist before the world was flattened like a pancake. Businesses who serve other businesses (B2B) must go deeper than the occasional sales call, Christmas gift and customer satisfaction survey; they must find ways to box customers in.
I often travel on behalf of clients, who arrange rooms at the Marriot, Hyatt and upscale locations such as the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton. If any of these chains solicited my feedback, I would give them high marks; I am satisfied. Yet given a choice, I will go out of my way to book a Hilton. As experts at J.D. Power and elsewhere have pontificated, there is a chasm between satisfaction and loyalty.
I find it fascinating that the term Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become synonymous with overpriced and monotonous software. The CRM revolution offered the promise of analytics that promoted tracking the most profitable customers as calculated by their lifetime value. The premise of CRM is to treat valued customers differently than less profitable ones. Somewhere along the way, many organizations lost sight of the point.
While frequent flyer programs and the like are popular, few realize the promise of customer loyalty. In the case of Hilton I receive free breakfast, cocktails, bottled water, Internet and frequent upgrades. Hilton truly treats me like a VIP, and they have boxed me in at a very low incremental cost.
So how can a B2B enterprise apply such thinking to deepen their customer relationships? There are certainly ways to provide special benefits to your best customers. The definition of best should not be limited to the customers that buy the most. It could mean who pays on time, participates in key programs, attends vendor events, etc. Special rebates can be paid to customers who demonstrate their loyalty and are easy to do business with.
There are also other intangible benefits such as direct customer service lines and faster cycle times that can be extended to those who meet certain thresholds. Companies that utilize distributors should evaluate, score and incent those that represent their product best, and meet specific performance criteria.
Your best customers are worthy of this investment, as they are the ones that are most apt to look beyond price when making decisions about their vendors. Treat your best customers like VIP’s.