Great Business Ideas: Building customer trust and loyalty

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: Building customer trust and loyalty

Both selling and influencing suffer from the similar misconception that success requires you to aggressively or cleverly push a product or idea. This misunderstanding leads to inappropriate behaviors. For example, people can become evasive, “pushy,” and aggressive, or overly talkative and agreeable. Selling and influencing depends on getting behavior right, by moderating openness and assertiveness with warmth and competence. Combined with a great product or brand, this goes a long way to building customer loyalty.

The idea

Harley-Davidson overcame a turbulent past by building customer loyalty—one of its most enduring assets. It was one of America’s foremost motorbike manufacturers but, by the 1980s, sales fell dramatically following tough competition from affordable, high- quality Japanese machines. Harley-Davidson improved quality using the production techniques of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The next challenge was to win back, and maintain, market share (it now enjoys a customer loyalty rate of 90 percent).

Knowledge of customers’ needs and appealing to customers’ emotions helped Harley-Davidson to build trust and bond with customers. Their managers meet customers regularly at rallies, where new models are demonstrated. Advertising reinforces the brand image, to promote customer loyalty. The Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) is a membership club that entrenches customer loyalty, with two-thirds of customers renewing membership.

Significantly, Harley-Davidson ensures customers receive benefits they value.

The result is that customers trust Harley-Davidson; this trust is used to develop stronger bonds and greater profits in a virtuous circle. Rich Teerlink, former chair, commented, “perhaps the most significant program was—and continues to be—the Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) . . . Dealers regained confidence that Harley could and would be a dependable partner . . . [And] capturing the ideas of our people—all the people at Harley—was critical to our future success.”

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In practice

  • Deliver customers a consistent (and ideally a “branded”) experience each time they deal with your business.
  • Be clear about the value proposition—what you are offering customers
  • Provide incentives for new customers to return and reorder.
  • Reward loyalty for established customers.
  • Be competitive—what seems like a good deal to you may not match your competitors.
  • Make the customer’s experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
  • Reassure customers with a reliable service and product offer.
  • Continuously improve the process, based on customer feedback.
  • Deliver reliability by working with partners and investing in resources.