When most people talk about “customer loyalty,” they often are actually talking about the more specific loyalty styling “conative loyalty” without knowing it. While there are several means to characterize “customer loyalty,” the loyalty most business owners desire is that which brings customers back to their business. Conative loyalty is an essential concept for business owners looking to improve customer retention, as understanding the concept is the basis of fine-tuning your operations to galvanize retention.
What is Conative Loyalty
Conative loyalty is the customer behavior of continuing to patronize your business. There is enough psychobabble to fill a book or two about conative loyalty, but the root of the concept is rather simple: consumers who willingly choose to go back to your business after a first visit are exhibiting conative loyalty. Unlike cognitive loyalty and affective loyalty, however, conative loyalty is shown in action rather than thoughts and opinions. Scoring conative loyalty with your customers is visible by the number of “regulars” and frequent customers or clients that patronize your business. So, the real game is not simply to achieve conative loyalty but also how to maintain it with your current customers.
Tips on How to Achieve (and Maintain) Conative Loyalty
Know Your Industry
The breadth of small business industries and styles means that there will never be a universal answer as to how to keep customers coming back; consumers don’t go to a coffee shop and a pool repair business for the same reasons. Maintaining conative loyalty and allowing new customers to form it will take some serious brainstorming between you and your trusted staff along with (believe it or not) feedback from your customers. Consider which of your products are most popular; in what ways can you change or improve that product to justify a reason for customers to make a return trip? Industries like auto maintenance or dentist offices that regularly schedule future appointments while customers are still in-house have it easy but that doesn’t mean the rest of the small businesses out there are out of luck.
Give your customers a tangible reason to come back to your business. For example, a coffee shop could encourage recycling by asking customers to bring their cups back from the last time they ordered for a discount on their next order. At its roots: use proof of purchase to incentivize future purchases. For industries where this would be more awkward (like the service industry) consider looking at your most popular products and seeing where it is possible to segment, separate, or improve existing services to necessitate a follow-up; just make sure this change doesn’t breed customer frustration.
Customer recommendations and reviews have an often-unspoken benefit beyond good press: customers who take the time to meaningfully explain their good experience are more likely to remember it themselves. Encouraging customers to write reviews online is a great means to allow those customers to feel out and articulate exactly what it is they like about your business. Then, they are more likely to remember those sentiments in the future! Online reviews, also, are not the only means to let customers speak their mind! Consider dedicating a space in your business to display hand-written, personal recommendations from your customers. Having their writing be physically on display in your business is another great means to build an emotional connection.
Customers who are enthusiastic enough about your business to write a review or recommendation outright are already exhibiting conative loyalty in spades but for the customers who haven’t reached that threshold yet, it’s up to you to convince them that your business is worth getting excited about!
Don’t Forget! Affective Loyalty Plays into Conative Loyalty
Affective loyalty, or the emotional loyalty held for a business, is likely the basis of building strong conative loyalty among your customers. Think about the concept of a “regular” in its own right: staff remember regulars’ orders, their names, and their preferences. That can only be formed through consistent, meaningful interactions with your best customers.
Go out of your way to train your staff about the importance of affective loyalty. You don’t have to sign them up for a marketing theory course; instead, get back to basics on the importance of even the simplest friendly inquiries when working with customers. The goal of your staff should almost always be to break the monotony and the base transactional undertones of doing business. If staff have a meaningful, memorable interaction with customers, you better believe they are on the first steps to building conative loyalty with your brand and business.
Reevaluate Business Pipeline Sections with Most Customer Interaction
Conative loyalty isn’t run by an off-and-on switch; every interaction your customers have with your business and brand will contribute to their perception of it, and by extension, their conative loyalty to your business. Think, then, about the elements of your business with the most customer or client interaction. Those elements must be maintained with unique precision to consistently impress (or, at the very least, simply satisfy) customers.
Conative loyalty is most likely to break down over repeated unsatisfactory experiences, so imagine the places where – in a worst-case scenario – your clients could be disappointed with their customer experience. If your business offers any kind of delivery services or meets customers at worksites, how long does it take for your employees to get there? If you don’t have a meaningful metric for this, that’s a good sign you should investigate transit times. How often do you train front-of-house staff about the importance of good customer service? This means more than sitting your staff down in the break room and saying, “be nice!”. If you want your staff to be memorable and pleasant to your customers, you need to make sure they are happy at work in the first place. This may require some introspection about your workplace culture at large.
Building a Conative Community
Conative loyalty is the eventual goal of just about all small businesses and for good reason; conative loyalty represents a customer’s genuine preference for your business over another and their willingness to act on that feeling. While cognitive loyalty in businesses is valuable, knowing that something is premium doesn’t mean that someone likes that thing or has any intention to patronize that business. And affective loyalty, as well, has its shortcomings: even people who like a brand don’t necessarily also have to go back and patronize those businesses. Conative loyalty is based on repeat action and is plainly visible in the faces of your regulars and most dedicated customers. In order to build that loyalty, then, consider the steps your business can take to both retain the regulars you already have and the steps you can take to excite and convince new customers to make your business part of their daily (where possible!) ritual.