According to a recent study by the Rockefeller Foundation, 68% of clients leave for no particular reason. No reason, my foot! Your merely satisfied clients might leave, but not your loyal clients. What's the difference? I can tell you from my own experience.
Let me explain: I loved my dentist. She is smart, gentle, and pretty much fabulous. I like her so much that I've sent six of my friends to her -- six women who appreciate excellent dental care and don't happen to have dental insurance. We are seven gals who pay cash (and plenty of it, because my dentist isn't cheap, and once a girl is a certain age, her dental bills start to rise, curse those mercury fillings of the '60s!).
Never once has my dentist has thanked me or even acknowledged that I sent Jean, Nancy, Terri, April, Chanel, and Trina to her, but no matter. I'd been going to her for over ten years and I considered myself completely satisfied.
But even satisfied isn't exactly loyal, as I discovered.
One holiday eve I needed an emergency root canal. My dentist told me that although she could do it, she would rather send me to a specialist in whom she had complete confidence. So off I went to a new dentist, and got my first painless root canal.
That night he called my house to give my husband his home phone number in case I needed emergency care. The day after the holiday I received a nice card from him, noting that he was on vacation for the holiday, but again giving me his home phone number in case I needed to call him.
A week later I received a nice letter with a hand-written post script thanking me for my business, and mentioning his appreciation for the cash payment.
I was in love!
Overwhelmed by his attention and appreciation, I was ready to switch dentists at that moment. Calling his office, I was disappointed when his office manager told me that unless I was ready to limit my dental hygiene to root canals, I should probably stick with my own dentist - which I did, until I found another dentist who would appreciate my business more.
Now, as a marketer I know that the call and the notes are all simply elements of his well-orchestrated marketing plan, but I fell for it all, hook, line and sinker. I felt so appreciated by a simple phone call and a note or two; I felt like he actually cared about me (unlike my own dentist, who never bothered to thank me for a referral or my business, even though I had given her plenty of both).
A little appreciation was all it took to make me want to switch, and my dentist never saw it coming. That's the difference between satisfaction and loyalty, and that's why appreciating your clients is so important.
If your clients are merely satisfied, you might never see the defection coming. The solution? Appreciate your clients, let them know it, and you'll have loyalty for life (or until you mess things up beyond salvation, but that's another article).
Do you need to do anything special to show your appreciation? YES! Say "thank you" like you mean it, and say it often. Your service may be exemplary, but the relationship is what creates loyalty.