Every six weeks I travel to my hairstylist’s place in Scarborough, even though I could get the same services much closer to home. I’ve thought about switching but I can’t.
Then again, there’s my internet provider. Though I’d been a customer for 20 years, I just gave them the boot without a thought beyond my own inconvenience.
The difference is loyalty, but not in the cheapened “loyalty points” sense of the word. Clients come back to you because you inspire something that affects them personally, whether it’s gratitude, empathy, trust or affection…or a combination of things. Of course, you can’t will this complex emotional response to happen, but you can create the ideal conditions for its growth. Take a leaf from my stylist’s book:
Be easier than the rest
At the six-week mark, he texts me to let me know my roots are probably showing. I check and he’s right, I’m hideous. I text back with a day and time and I have an appointment. Clearly, my hair is his responsibility, and that’s one less thing to worry about. When I arrive, the mood is light and breezy. I relax.
When someone hires you, they don’t want to work around your schedule. They don’t want the burden of your negative feelings or your opinions on sensitive subjects. They want you to work. Keep it uncomplicated and unemotional and you already have an advantage.
Skill matters, but what matters more is that you are you are making your client’s life easier.
Be open about money
I know that my stylist gives me a good deal and I’m happy to give him a raise every year whether he asks for it or not. My internet provider? I always assume I’m paying too much. Because everyone knows that if you call the Customer Retainment Department and threaten to leave, they’ll give you a better price. And that makes me wonder, why didn’t they just give me the best price in the first place?
No one wants to feel like a sucker. Set a rate and stick to it. Never pad your bill or surprise your client with an unexpected charge. Openness about money reflects your integrity – and that makes it easier to connect with you.
Be your delightful self
When I arrive at my stylist’s, he has a cup of hot coffee waiting for me. He sings kooky made-up songs while he slaps on the colour. The little gestures and the quirkiness create affiliation because they’re genuine. The real thing is impossible to replicate, although a Customer Retainment Department may try.
Who values you? Who gets you? Who can be counted on to share your load or make you smile? Those are the people you will return to.
Be open to the possibility
The moment I met my hair guy 15 years ago, there was a connection that allowed him to crack jokes and be his inappropriate self. But then, I needed a new stylist – I happily engaged.
When I’m the one providing a service, I can tell within seconds if a new client is open to establishing a relationship. He or she will invest emotional energy by meeting me in person, smiling and making eye contact. There is warmth, kindness.
I’m sure they can tell when I’m interested, too. Which is why I try to show up on time, listen intently, demonstrate enthusiasm and behave graciously.
But what if you don’t feel that chemistry right away? Stay upbeat. Loyalty is often built on shared experience and adversity. As time goes on, connections develop through mutual understanding.
What my internet provider doesn’t get is that loyalty isn’t just about quality and savings. Why did I change providers? Because a young woman from the competition knocked on my door and had a conversation with me. I let her persuade me to switch because I liked her.
Loyalty is deeply personal. If you want it, connect personally.