?As rocketing gas prices and food costs increase, consumer spending is down. If people aren't spending as much on your products or services as they used to, you can't rely on sales or discounts to bring them in. The hit to your bottom line might not make up for the brief period of increased customer activity. Instead, you need to rely on customer loyalty. The Pareto Principle says that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. To keep these customers coming back, you need to help them remain loyal to you. That's right; you can take steps to build customer loyalty. Here are a few ideas to do that: Get to know your customers To create a loyalty program or to know what products your customers want (and keep stocking them), you need to get to know your customers. First you need to identify what type of customer you want to remain loyal to you and figure out which products or services they value the most. Having this information will allow you to create an appealing rewards program targeted right to this customer base. In order to do this, you need to use a combination of customer satisfaction surveys, market research and customer feedback. According to an article by Thomas O. Jones and W. Earl Sasser, Jr. in the Harvard Business Review, these three tools will help businesses understand their customers better than anything else will. You can also use customer information to send greeting cards on their birthday or on holidays. This shows that you care about them at other times of the year, meaning other than when they're spending their money with you! Your customer service needs to exceed expectations. Good customer service is expected nowadays; you can't just maintain the status quo and expect customers to be loyal to you. You must exceed customer expectations by offering extra services that they don't expect and you need to do it on a regular basis. Show customers they are valued by asking their opinion of your latest product or a product you're thinking about adding. Treat customers like your life depends on their business. Give them whatever they need and want and try to anticipate what they'll ask for next. Give them incentives for using loyalty cards. A loyalty card program, like the Best Buy reward card that Best Buy department stores use is a great way to keep customers coming back to you. You should give these customers with loyalty cards an incentive, like bonus points for each purchase that they can redeem for cash or a gift card. Using a loyalty card lets you track purchases so you know what's popular and what you may want to eliminate from your shelves. It also rewards your customers for being loyal. A win-win situation! Katie Marcus writes information about the greeting cards technologies.