Loyalty is to business what gas is to cars. It’s a necessity. It’s also the fuel for success and everybody wants it. The difference is that a car consumes its fuel in a few short days, but you must maintain loyalty to succeed in the long run.

The fact of the matter is that we want customers who are loyal to our business. We also want employees who are loyal to our business. It’s a symbiotic relationship. After all, loyalty from our employees leads to loyalty from our customers.

But what does “loyalty” mean?

We checked out some dictionaries, and found three typical definitions (those noted below are from Princeton University’s WordNet®):

1. The quality of being loyal
2. Feelings of allegiance
3. The act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action [synonyms: commitment, allegiance, dedication].

According to WordNet®, if you want “loyalty” in your business, then you want “feelings” and actions that bind a customer to you. You want intellectual or emotional signs of allegiance or dedication.

So, how do you engender emotions from your customer? We often hear in sales that customers “buy on emotion.” Well the definitions above suggest that customers are KEPT on emotions as well.

Evaluate what about your business creates emotions. Do your people create positive emotions with their focus and attention on the customer? Do your processes elicit emotions by easing anxieties associated with doing business and spending money? Do your products and services create positive emotions by doing what you promised and more?

This assessment of your people, processes, and products will then help determine what positive emotions you can create with your customers. The goals are to surpass their expectations by doing the following:Positively change how they feel by doing something unexpectedly exceptional — surprise your customers and earn their loyalty.
– Positively impact their perception of your company by listening to their problems and solving them.
– Positively remove their stress by making their life and their dealings with your business clear and simple.

In addition to creating positive emotions with your customers, you need to establish allegiance and dedication. Why is this important? Having your customers in allegiance with you implies that they are on your side. They support you, as somebody standing side-by-side with you. Dedication implies that they will come back to you time and again. To form the allegiance, there has to be a foundation of trust. It’s a matter of making a customer trust your products and services, your people, your way of doing business, the type of company you are or aspire to be. It’s having a customer willing to defend your products against the sales personnel and marketing messages of competitors.

So, how do you instill trust with your customers?

It’s simple — do what you promise and more. Create expectations by delivering in a consistent manner over time. Strive to promote the “greater good” that your company provides so people aspire to be a part of what you stand for and what you are about.

Once you have established trust among your customers, you will find they become dedicated to your business. This means that they would prefer to use only your company or primarily your company for the types of products and services you offer.

You know that you have a dedicated customer when the relationship has become comfortable. They know you and your products; they know how to navigate your business; they know how to have the most enjoyable experience. You are part of their routine. Therefore, making your customer’s experience comfortable is the name of the game. Creating comfort, enjoyment and dedication goes beyond offering someone a glass of water. It should touch all facets of your business: from your company’s Web access to parking, from the consistent look of signage to an easy-to-navigate facility, and from welcoming guests in to showing appreciation as they leave.

Create an allegiance and dedication from your customers to help fuel greater loyalty and keep your business from running on empty.

Ed Gagnon is president of Customer Service Solutions Inc., which specializes in customer retention and growth strategies, training, and measurement. He can be reached at (704) 553-7525 or Ed.Gagnon@cssamerica.com.