In business (as with television) change is inevitable and sometimes desirable. Even when the status quo appears preferable - and change is forced upon you – it is still possible to maintain customer loyalty. A seemingly unwanted development may even facilitate a new chapter of success.
The Great British Bake Off, which returned triumphantly to our screens this week, has proved this point.
Top Gear, which spluttered back on to the airwaves last May, shows how it is also possible to mismanage change and lose customer loyalty as a result.
The differing levels of success between these two shows offers valuable insights into how change (for any business) should be managed.
Here are three essential tips for maintaining customer loyalty in the face of change.
1. Maintain your USP
No matter how fundamental the change your business is facing, it is vital to retain the USP that your customers love.
In the case of The Great British Bake Off, the show retained its format and setting, as well as the style of interaction between the competitors, judges and hosts. These elements combine to form the programme’s USP and by retaining them, the show has maintained the loyalty of its audience.
Conversely, Top Gear’s USP was its trio of presenters. Anyone can make a show about cars but only Top Gear had Clarkson, May and Hammond. The programme could have undergone any number of seemingly fundamental changes and the audience would have stayed loyal had the team of presenters remained unchanged. They could have stopped talking about cars and switched their attention to kitchen appliances, it would not have mattered.
Once the show’s USP had gone, the audience soon switched off.
The same is true in business. You have to keep your USP in order to retain customer loyalty.
When all cars are electric in 2040, will they all be the same? Of course not. Hyundai will offer the value for the money that its customers have come to love, while BMW will offer the build quality and level of comfort with which it is synonymous.
If you do not know what it is that your customers love about your business – what it is that keeps them loyal – definitely find this out before undertaking any significant change.
2. Publicise the change
Do not try to conceal that a change is taking place within your business. Any attempt to do so will inevitably backfire as modern day communications ensure news spreads fast and rumours even faster.
Transparency is vital and, if step one above is adhered to, then there is nothing to fear. While your customers might react to a headline with a certain degree of apprehension, once it becomes clear that your business will retain the characteristics upon which their loyalty is founded, they will embrace the change willingly.
When publicising it, be sure to explain the benefits of the change that is taking place fully - that is not spin, it is just good communication.
3. Explain the journey
Unless your business is very young, this is unlikely to be the first change in its history. We ourselves have gone from designing for print and sourcing ad space in the 1980s, to adding website design to our list of services in the mid-1990s, to focusing purely on online communications and marketing today. Throughout that journey, we have successfully retained many customers who have not only appreciated our USP but who have also seen the benefits of our direction of travel.
By keeping customers informed about the evolution of our business, and by signposting the benefits to be accrued along the way, we have maintained their confidence and loyalty.
Even if you do not have plans to undertake any major developments in the near future, the ever-changing business environment is sure to create new challenges and to present your business with new opportunities. Failure to adapt to technological advancements, reimagined business models, evolving customer expectations and shifts in the economy will see your business struggle to maintain its standing among more dynamic organisations.
The onward march of change makes the ability to present its benefits a vital requirement of any business. If you need help with your communication strategy, we will be pleased to help in any way. Please call 01494 452600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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