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    Want loyal customers? Quality makes all the difference

    Jeff Haden
    Business Journalist

    Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

    Jeff Haden
    Business Journalist

    Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

    Quality isn’t an optional extra any more. It’s the status quo. Jeff Haden looks at why quality breeds loyalty. And loyalty delivers on the bottom line.

    You already know this, but it bears repeating: shopping has never been easier for the consumer. Websites and mobile, multi-channel purchase options like phone, e-commerce, affiliates and brick-and-mortar… anyone can sell to customers, from anywhere.

    So with all that competition, it would be natural for you to assume that price is a major purchase factor since it’s easier than ever to look for – and get – the best deal.

    But you’d be wrong. According to research conducted with thousands of customers, only 7 per cent said price mattered where customer satisfaction and customer loyalty was concerned. “Merchandise” (meaning the quality of products offered) was the highest-scoring element for retailers, and “functionality” made the biggest impact where mobiles are concerned.

    In short, quality matters a lot more – and not just in terms of products and services, but also in the way businesses interact with their customers.

    It seems self-evident, but for a small business owner dealing with thousands of details, quality can run the risk of becoming just another aspect of your operations. You think about it… but only when things go wrong.

    people queuing in line at a coffee store

    you’d be wrong. According to research conducted with thousands of customers, only 7 per cent said price mattered where customer satisfaction and customer loyalty was concerned. “Merchandise” (meaning the quality of products offered) was the highest-scoring element for retailers, and “functionality” made the biggest impact where mobiles are concerned.

    In short, quality matters a lot more – and not just in terms of products and services, but also in the way businesses interact with their customers.

    It seems self-evident, but for a small business owner dealing with thousands of details, quality can run the risk of becoming just another aspect of your operations. You think about it… but only when things go wrong.

    Quality matters

    Your customers think about quality all the time. They immediately decide a “good deal” isn’t a good deal if the purchase was a hassle. They immediately decide a good deal isn’t a good deal when the product did not meet an expected level of quality. And the definition of “quality” is largely based on expectations: I don’t expect a fast-food burger to taste like filet mignon… but I do expect it to be served quickly.

    That’s why price is less of an issue for many customers, especially with social entrepreneurship – and social and eco-friendly considerations – continuing to rise to the forefront. Movements like “farm-to-fork” (or as my grandfather called it, “From moo to you”) prove that customers don’t just want great products – they want to know where those products came from and how they were produced. 

    An opportunity in quality

    For a small business owner, heightened customer expectations are not a challenge – they’re an opportunity. Delivering on quality gives you highly satisfied customers. Highly satisfied customers become truly loyal customers, faithful to your brand – and likely to recommend you to other people.

    With a quality product, more temporary forms of loyalty fall by the wayside, like purchased loyalty (like coupons or discounts) and convenience loyalty (where you might be loyal to those businesses simply because they're convenient). 

    True loyalty

    True loyalty is earned when your customers are highly satisfied, their needs are completely met and their expectations consistently exceeded. When the quality of the experience is there, customers simply cannot imagine using another product or service.

    Loyal customers come back. You don't have to pay to acquire and keep them. Loyal customers are more profitable as well, since new customers are much more expensive to attain.

    So don't compromise where quality is concerned – not just in terms of your products and services but also in terms of every customer touch-point. Take a step back and evaluate your quality control practices. If you’re outsourcing certain operations, pay even more attention to the quality of the product or service delivered. Check. Double-check. Obsess.

    Consistently delivering an outstanding experience creates satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are loyal customers – and loyal customers are the best competitive advantage you can have.

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