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The Difference Between Repeat Customers and Loyal Customers

"We love our customers, and they obviously love us. They keep coming back, again and again!"

Who doesn't want to be able to say that? And, if that is the case with your organization, let me ask you this question: Do you know why they are coming back?

Not to be a "downer," but we shouldn't confuse a repeat customer with a loyal customer. They are not the same.

Don't get me wrong, I love repeat customers, and we absolutely want them. Repeat customers are very desirable. I write about this topic in my latest book, I'll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again. As a business, you should do everything you can do to get the customer to come back. However, as I explain in the book, just because they do come back, that doesn't mean they are loyal. You have to understand the why behind the repeat business.

For example, let's say you own a retail store. There are a number of reasons customers might come back. Ideally, it's related to an emotional connection that causes them to want to come back to you and not the competition. Maybe they love your unique merchandise. Maybe they love your salespeople. Perhaps there is a cause or charity you support. These are reasons that customers could be emotionally connected to you.

But, maybe it's because of your location or low prices. If the customer keeps coming back because of a convenient location, the moment a competitor opens a store that's more convenient, the customer may go there instead. It's the same with price. If you promise low prices, and that's what is driving customers to come back, as soon as the competition offers a lower price, you may lose the customer. And you thought they were loyal? They were, but that loyalty was to location and price, not to your business.

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The point is to recognize the difference between repeat customers and loyal customers. Make sure you understand the why behind what brings that customer back. If it's something other than an emotional connection that can drive loyalty to your business, work to move that customer from just being a repeat customer to loyalty.

I like to refer to repeat customers as gold and loyal customers as sacred. And to emphasize, while customer loyalty is the "holy grail," there is nothing wrong with going for repeat business. The point is that you must understand why the customer comes back. Once they start coming back, make sure they are coming back for reasons that will keep them from leaving you for your competition.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXXI, Shep Hyken)

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Shep Hyken.

 Photo courtesy of Shep Hyken.


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