Speaking Their Love Language: How to Build Customer Loyalty

How much do you love your customers? How much do they love you back? Do you have any data to back up your hunch?

The top fuel and convenience retail brands understand how to create long-lasting customer relationships built on trust, loyalty, and shared values. They’re great at engaging with consumers and turning those shoppers into brand-loyal customers.

After all, loyal customers are simply good business. According to PDI consumer data, 15% of a business’ most loyal customers account for 55 to 70% of the company’s total sales. What’s more, returning customers tend to spend an average 67% more than first-time customers.

When you really think about it, developing stronger bonds with your customers isn’t that much different than how we all develop personal relationships—excluding the anticipated monetary transaction, that is! Then again, most of us could still benefit from a few expert tips to get ourselves in the mindset of building customer loyalty and stronger relationships.

Speaking the “love languages”

So, where do you turn for relationship-building advice? You can skip all the advice columnists and the appointment with your favorite relationship guru. We’re going straight to the 1992 book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman.

As its title suggests, this book describes five love languages that inform human relationships:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Physical touch
  4. Acts of service
  5. Receiving gifts

Let’s take a deeper dive into how each of these areas can help you focus on building customer loyalty and growing customer retention.

1. Words of affirmation

We all like to hear the word “yes” and we all want to be included. Your customers feel the same way. Don’t neglect them or take them for granted. Here are a few simple tips to affirm your connection:

  • Communicate clearly and consistently. Let them know how much you appreciate them and never let them think you’ve forgotten about them.
  • Let them participate. Reach out to them so they can opt in to what you’re offering.
  • Engage early and often. Digital engagement via email, mobile phone apps, and social media keeps the communication flowing so you can share advice and they can share valuable feedback.

2. Quality time

Notice that this doesn’t say “quantity” time. Yes, it would be great if your customers showed up at your site and lingered in your store for hours. Of course, that’s completely unrealistic. But here are some ways to maximize your time together:

  • Incentivize them to visit your site with fuel discounts and drive them into your store with other incentives right from the pump. Make it worth their dwell time by giving them a reason to linger.
  • Once they show up, compel them to stay with great customer service and a consistent omnichannel (onsite and digital) experience.
  • Get personal by leveraging the latest data-driven insights that allow you to give individual customers exactly what they want in real time.

3. Physical touch

OK, we should probably amend the name of this area to physical “location” and in-person experience. Your customers want and deserve a more personalized experience—and if you can provide that, you’re well on your way to cementing a bond that lasts. Here are some additional ways to tighten those connections:

  • Keep your physical site clean and safe. For instance, customers rank a well-lit exterior as one of the top draws of a c-store. In contrast, a messy store or filthy bathroom can cost you customers after just one bad visit.
  • Create an attractive and inviting atmosphere with physical and digital signage that helps you highlight unique offers or loyalty programs.
  • Make it as convenient as possible for your customers. There’s a reason we call it the “convenience” industry—it’s what we can offer that other retailers can’t. Great products, great service, all in one highly convenient location.

4. Acts of service

This love language is all about showing empathy and respect for your customers. Make sure they know they’re part of a relationship, not just a transaction. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Show off your altruistic side by ensuring your offers and promotions are both compelling and substantive. Offer both physical and digital rewards cards so you cover the full range of customer demographics.
  • Train your staff to positively promote your programs during each customer interaction to increase participation levels.
  • Take your acts of service up a notch by creating your own sustainability programs that benefit the environment or the local community. You can even install some EV chargers if that aligns with your business strategy and your customers’ needs.

5. Receiving gifts

Just in case you were wondering, no, this isn’t about you receiving gifts. It’s you thoughtfully extending gifts to your customers. For instance, you could:

  • Reward them with…rewards! Make sure your loyalty program delivers what your customers want by carefully analyzing your customer data, tracking your program results, and making the necessary adjustments.
  • Build relationships with consumer brands to deliver some of the top discounts and rebates on popular products or affinity pairings your customers want.

When it comes to how you act toward them, your customers want to be treated like family (and maybe even better than family, in some cases). Your objective should be to deliver an exceptional customer experience that continues building long-lasting loyalty to your brand.

By speaking their love languages, you can start mending broken relationships and attracting new customers to your stores.

Keep the Love Flowing

Check out even more expert tips to build longer-lasting customer relationships.