Is there a place you go, besides home or work, where people know you? Maybe it’s a coffee shop where they always make your coffee scalding hot, just like you like it, or a diner where they know to hold the onion on your sandwich even when you forget to ask. An onion-free sandwich is a small thing, sure, but doesn’t it feel good when they remember?
Let’s face it: you can get a really good cup of coffee in a lot of places. But let’s say one day you get a free refill on your coffee from that super friendly waiter who saved the last maple bar donut for you because he remembered maple bars are your favorite, and he knew you’d be in this Friday morning because you’re there every Friday morning. Now you’re a “regular” – they know you. And isn’t that even better?
When you make your customers feel that last-maple-bar good, there’s a very good chance they’ll come back next Friday. And the Friday after that.
Customers who feel like regulars feel special every time they interact with your organization. Remember the 80s TV show Cheers? The shout of “Norm!” every time that character walked in the door, his drink of choice waiting for him by the time he reached “his” stool at the end of the bar? Norm is the ultimate regular, the guy your customers want to be – or at least be treated like.

Having regulars matters

For customers, being a regular means knowing that business owners will:
  • Understand their needs.
  • Genuinely want to solve their problems.
  • Lead them to the right solutions, quickly and simply.
  • Answer their questions honestly, giving them an answer, not a sales pitch.
Feeling like a regular is about feeling and genuinely being valued; it’s about more than simply being a satisfied customer.
For business owners, having loyal regulars is vital to maintaining reliable revenue streams. And as Tom Cates, President of The Brookeside Group, recently pointed out, the stronger the relationship, the longer the customer lifetime.

So how you do you find your Norm?

Turning customers into regulars

To be “the place where everyone knows your name,” and become the trusted advisor your customers will turn to over and over again, there are a few things you’ll need to do:

Engage.

In that same MarketProfs article, Tom Cates also suggests you “empower customers by inviting them to partner with your company in the process of generating new ideas and initiatives.” Giving your customers the opportunity to share their thoughts and suggestions with you is a great way to show you value their opinion. And you get the benefit of some expert advice!
HINT: There’s an easy way to start this – check your reviews on Pinpoint, Yelp, or other social sharing site. If they’re raving about you, thank them. If they’re ranting, offer to fix it, if you can. The point is to listen and engage.

Make recommendations.

…even if that sometimes means recommending a competitor. You want to demonstrate to your customers that their business success is as top-of-mind as your own. What you might lose in one sale, you’ll make up for in trusted advisor status—and you’ll gain longer customer lifetime value.

Make exceptions.

Blogger and restaurant-regular-expert The Waitress Confessions suggests that you occasionally treat regulars by discounting a price or special-ordering something the customer really wants. (And honestly, who knows more about keeping customers happy than those in the hospitality industry?) Knowing you made a special effort for them will encourage customers to come back to you with their next need. And to bring a friend.

Add a personal touch.

As Alice DeFault of Front says, “Don’t let a robot be in charge of your communications.” Think outside the mass email: in this age of mass communication, a handwritten letter really stands out. Holiday greetings, birthday cards, or (as a last resort) an email clearly created just for them, is a memorable gesture.

Be genuine.

Earning regulars isn’t about scoring points with customers, it’s about building relationships, and you can’t build something solid on a flimsy foundation.
So get to know your Norms. Treat them well, make them feel special and valued. And in return, they’ll choose to sit at your proverbial bar, not your competitor’s.