Inspiring Loyalty

A lot is made of customer loyalty these days and what it takes to earn it. Where does it start, what does it take, and what’s it mean? Businesses can earn our loyalty ahead of a sale, during it, and during the ownership experience. You may ask how it’s possible to earn that kind of relationship even before it begins. Here’s an example of a business I love doing business with that shows how it’s done.

Ridley and Reality Really Rock It!

I’ve mentioned before that I bike. I started riding mountain bikes over ten years ago. That’s a sport that is hard on equipment and at some point I needed some work done on a wheel. A friend recommended I go to Reality Bikes in Cumming, GA. Chris, who runs the shop there, did a great job and they’ve done work on my bikes several times since then. There’s not a ton of money in that but they always take care of me. I’ve gotten better at doing work myself so I really have them do things I can’t. One time, they did a little work prepping a frame I’d bought somewhere else (they don’t sell that brand – more on this later). They could have griped that I should have bought the bike there. The reality is that there’s a lot of shopping options for bikes and bike parts which puts pressure on local shops. Instead, they effectively charged me for half of the work and told me how great the bike looked. Then I bought my wife a bike there. The owner, Todd Muller, really listened to her and they even upgraded a few parts on the stock bike she bought.

Fast forward a couple years, and I decide to get a road bike to go with my mountain bike. I went to Reality with a few friends, who also shop there, and we had a good time going over options. Again, Todd really listened to what I wanted. He decided he really wanted me on a Ridley, a Belgian company far less known than Trek. This wasn’t an up-sell, just good advice on a product he thought was right for me. He didn’t have one in my size in stock so he loaned me his. Just to drive off with, ride some, and return a few days later. I ended up getting the bike we discussed for a fair price and it turned out to be a great move.
Loyal Owners
This past weekend, Reality had a Ridley owner appreciation day. Somewhere around 40 riders showed up. We rode for a few hours at a pace that was set so we would have fun and get to meet each other. When we got back, the shop had a terrific catered lunch with Belgian beer plus some shirts with both the shop and Ridley logos on it. Ridley had a rep there to ride with us and talk about the company. Sure, he had a new bike to show us, but this wasn’t a sales event. At the end of the day, this was a day to help bring a group together and share a common enthusiasm.

All of this activity, of course, leads to customer loyalty. It’s that customer loyalty that helps drive new customers. The chances of them having new customers come in for a high-end bike after word of mouth is far greater than drive by traffic.

I’d be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention why I’d bought that other mountain bike elsewhere. I really wanted that Turner because I liked the specific bike and I had broken one of their frames in the past. When I called to report the broken bike, Greg was actually stoked which freaked me out. He wasn’t stoked because I would buy a new bike. He was stoked because they could give me a newer better replacement.

Key things these businesses are doing right:
  • Knowing their target market and going a bit wider (my bike is nicer than the wife’s)
  • Treat customers well and go out of your way to make sure they’re happy
  • When – not if – something goes wrong, take the opportunity to have a positive interaction with your customer.
  • Show passion for what you do. Not false enthusiasm or hype. Genuinely care about what you’re doing.
  • Realize your customers may not buy everything from you. There are lots of options in the world. Everything needs to work for them though so aim to make their entire experience everything it can be.

2 thoughts on “Inspiring Loyalty

  1. Great post! I think for me it all boils down to recognition. Walking into a store and the folks there know my name, remember what I’ve bought from them, and perhaps even have a vague idea of what I like win me over every time. I’ll happily wait for service, pay a little more, and wait for something to come in if you treat me right when I walk in the door. And a simple “Goodmorning James” does it better than anything else.


    1. Definitely. That’s the case at Reality for sure. It’s not realistic to expect that from every business we go in to but it sure does help us want to be there.

      The Turner example is a great one. I bought the original bike directly from them on close out (OK, still not cheap). When it cracked was over a holiday weekend which was traumatizing, naturally (sniff). When I talked with Greg, he didn’t care if I was a guy who’d gotten a cheap deal on a bike or someone who got each new Turner the day it came out over 10 years. He was excited to get me on a newer design that was better than the one I had. Crap happens but how a company responds can turn a negative into a positive.


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