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Customer Loyalty Unpacked.

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There’s a coffee shop in TMP Town that I like to use. We have the big boys – Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero – but I always go to a small independent café just along the road from TMP HQ. In a week when businesses have been cutting back on the perks offered by their loyalty card schemes, I’ve been thinking this week about why my favourite coffee hangout has my loyalty – no schemes involved. I like supporting local businesses but my consumer research skills extend to assessing my own customer experience and I don’t just blindly buy local at all cost. So what makes me support my local coffee minnows over the big fish?
1. QualityWithout a doubt, the coffee they use to brew up my morning latte is way superior to anything the coffee chains use. I never thought I was a coffee snob until the staff talked me through why they use the beans that they do and showed me how to taste the different notes in their brew. Now my morning caffeine fix has become a totally sensory experience and one to savour and enjoy.2. Expert staff

See above. But not only are they experts in coffee, they’re also experts in making sure every customer feels valued. Every time I go in to their café, they make me feel like the most important customer they’ve had all day – and I’m not so egotistical to think that I actually am. It’s a finer line to tread than most of us realise. Staff in my coffee store do it with just the right amount of questions – How are you? How’s your day going? Got anything important planned for today? – so that I don’t feel like they’re prying or I have to overshare, but they’re still interested in how things are for me. It’s all in the asking too. On the rare occasions I’ve been forced to go into one of the coffee chains, staff have tried to do the same thing but it’s simply not worked – questions delivered in a flat tone of voice, or when their back’s turned to me. Eye contact and authenticity, people – they’re important.

3. Value

This one’s tricky. To compete with the big boys, my local independent has invested in a superior product but keeps it at the same price as the coffee chains. How? They’ve compromised on serving sizes. The coffee you get from them packs a real punch but you can’t get it as a Grande or Venti. Small but perfectly formed. Now I’m happy with that arrangement but it might not suit everyone – and that’s OK with the manager. He knows the market he’s going for and sticks to his guns.

So what can one small coffee shop tell us about customer loyalty? It starts with having a clear value proposition – knowing why customers should engage with your brand over its competitors. For The Monachie Project’s version of Central Perk it starts and ends with a superior product. Simple -once you’ve tasted their wares there’s no going back.

The customer service experience you offer is equally important too. You can’t write a script for it, it has to be authentic. You know how you get each customer to feel like they’re the most important person you’ll serve all day? Realise that they are. Each and every one of them. No pretence allowed. I’m not saying you should fawn over them like they’re royalty, just treat them with genuine respect and see how it goes.

It’s also a great tactic to let them in on the secrets of your business. So I got shown how to properly taste and appreciate a fine coffee – and now when I go in, the staff share new blends of beans they’re trying out with me. I have to admit that despite years of analytical customer service research, this cynical consumer consultant feels pretty special when they do.

Where value’s concerned, you might need to be creative. Superior coffee at the same price as your competitors is one definition of value, although not everybody’s. It’s why you need to stand firm when it comes to your unique selling point. Whatever your take on value, be confident that you’re right and communicate it to your customers so that they know the deal they’re getting.

A small, independent, successful business – we can all learn a thing or two from them, whatever our product and however big we get. Don’t know where to start? Get in touch with The Monachie Project to find out what your market really wants from you – and how they experience your brand through all of its touchpoints. We can give you the solid base you need for your most successful year yet – and if I’m out, leave a message. I’ll get back to you when I’ve returned from sampling the latest Kenyan coffee bean, grown by a farmer called David and ground at high altitude by a team of silent monks.

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