Property management professionals operate within an industry based upon the delivery of sound and consistent customer service.  We believe that when most effective, good customer service results in profitability and client retention.  As such, we are constantly striving to deliver top-level customer service through our systems and practices.  Ultimately, we trust that this will lead to customer satisfaction.  But, is customer satisfaction enough to propagate long-term business growth and sustainability?  Recent studies indicate that satisfaction alone will not lead to the ultimate goal of customer loyalty.

So we have customer satisfaction on one side of the coin and customer loyalty on the other.  What is the difference between these two concepts?  Both relate to customer service but they are very different.  Despite differences, the two are interdependent.  Both relate to customer retention and both are driven by customer experiences. 

Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is simply a customer’s sense of being satisfied.  When tenants are content with service that is consistent and meets their expectations, they are happy.  But satisfaction does not always equate to long-term devotion.  Satisfied customers will stay – but only until a better alternative presents itself – even if their expectations are being exceeded.  There is no emotional connection or investment, and as such, no commitment. 

Customer Loyalty

By contrast, customer loyalty is what drives customers to maintain your services, keep returning and stay through thick and thin.  Too many times we make the mistake of confusing satisfied customers with loyal ones.  Much research over the years has indicated no connection exists between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.  None.  Simply because a customer indicates high levels of satisfaction does not mean they are or will become loyal to you.

Customer loyalty is anchored in emotional connection.  They are invested, heart and mind, in what you are as a company and how they are a part of it.  A sense of partnership replaces the customer definition.  They are “all in” and committed to you. 

What Drives Customer Loyalty?

One could argue that business relationships are an essential component.  These are the relationships that go beyond the standard mindset of “get the sale and just maintain the account”.  The types of relationships that foster and nurture loyalty are those that are built with care, effort and sense of purpose. 

The following are five steps that can help individuals and organizations build strong relationships that breed loyalty: 

  • Be Likeable – Go out of your way to be friendly and helpful.  Customers and clients want to be around people that make them feel good and positive.  Be real.  Have a sense of humor and connect on more than just a business level.  Use discretion, but connect with positive interaction.  Ask about hobbies, trips, interests, family, etc.  Find common ground, build chemistry and connection will follow. 
  • Earn Respect with Professionalism – Clients should look with admiration upon how you work, how you behave and how you treat others.  Are you competent?  Organized?  Do you follow-up?  Are you among the best in your profession?  Endeavor to earn and maintain respect through steady disciplined practices. 
  • Be Admirable – In all you are as a person, not just who you are at work.  Clients establish long-term devotion to people with whom they are proud to associate.  Are you living a life worthy of other’s respect?  How do you spend free time?  Family events?  Charity work?  Relationships migrate to a deeper level when outside interests and causes are shared and intersect. 
  • Be Honest and Forthcoming – Always.  If a problem arises, catch it early.  Communicate the details to a client or customer and have a solution ready.  Apologize when necessary.  Business practices move quickly and are subject to both visible and unforeseen events.   Anticipate it.  Deception or dishonesty will only lead to suspicion and destroy trust.  Avoid short cuts.  Make smart decisions.  Honesty in business dealings will earn you respect, devoted clients and loyalty. 
  • Maintain the Relationship – Even after the business relationship ends.  Even after a contract or service agreement ends (assuming upon good terms) stay in touch with the customer.  Although your services may not be required now, let them know you are always available when needed in the future.  Do not allow the relationship to disintegrate simply because the “business benefit” has disappeared.  This is a valuable time to show a client your devotion goes beyond just seeking remuneration for services.  This demonstrates commitment and willingness to be ready for service when needed down the road. 

In summary, good relationships with clients that are built upon a foundation of trust will help you weather the ups and downs of business cycles and minimize conflicts when problems arise.  Such relationships are catalysts in a well-rounded life and successful career.

Remain faithful to your principles; don’t compromise by seeking short cuts, heed your moral compass and you will be rewarded with happy customers who are not only satisfied, but loyal too. 

Reprinted with permission of the Rental Housing Journal Metro.