The Building Blocks of Customer Loyalty

Small Business

All else being equal, attitude and relationships are what sell

By Jim Hornickel

A great attitude and solid relationships are at the heart of building sustained customer loyalty as well as attracting new customers.

Of course, you must have excellent products, services, and systems in place to serve your customers’ needs. But as a customer yourself, you’ve undoubtedly done business with firms whose products or services you like but who projected a poor attitude and made no effort to build a relationship with you. How did that make you feel? Not eager to become a repeat customer, I’ll bet.

Projecting a Customer-Focused Attitude

In contrast, how do you feel when you do business with someone who has a “can-do” attitude? Don’t you light up when you hear, “I can help you with that!” expressed with certainty, energetically, with an uplifting tone of voice? If you’re like most of us, such an encounter raises your spirits and gives you confidence that you’ll have a fully satisfying experience with that person or company.

To help maintain an attitude that will build customer loyalty, consider coming up with a few phrases of your own. One that I use is “Sure, that’s possible!” One of my colleagues takes it a step further and says, “That’s too easy!” with an engaging smile in her voice.

Having a few such phrases to call upon keeps you fresh and less apt to respond in an automatic way. Practice frequently and listen to your tone of voice and level of enthusiasm as if you were the customer. Then notice the difference your new approach makes.

Meet Your Customers Where They Are

Solid, positive relationships are another critical component of customer loyalty. Sales research says that if everything else is close to equal, people will buy from and stay with people and companies they like.

The foundation of lasting customer relationships is the Platinum Rule. Unlike the Golden Rule, which tells us to treat others as we want to be treated, the Platinum Rule suggests that we treat others (internal and external customers) as they want to be treated.

In other words, meet customers where they are. Take the time (even if you only have a minute on the phone) to get curious about who they are, how they approach things, and what their needs are: their needs as a person as well as their business needs.

Again, think about what it’s like to be a customer. Do you want someone to treat you according to their preferences and needs, or would you prefer that he or she take an interest in you and serve you in a way that works for you? That’s really what the customer is always right means. It’s right for them to be exactly who they are.

Take a Test

To better understand how people differ from one another and what adjustments you can make to meet customers where they are, consider taking one of the many personal assessments based on the tried-and-true DISC four-quadrant behavioral model. DISC stands for Dominance (or Drive), Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness (or Compliance).

Learn more and find various DISC assessments online, including DiSC personality profiles, by typing DISC personality assessments into your search engine.

Jim Hornickel is cofounder of Bold New Directions, a consulting firm specializing in corporate training and employee development. He can be reached at

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