Customers are arguably the most important aspect of a business. Many startups live and die by their client numbers and are therefore incentivized to attract more and more customers. But did you know that getting new customers is more expensive than retaining existing ones? And while we’re on the subject, did you know that repeat customers are likely to spend more than new ones — up to a whopping 67% more?
Many more statistics show that keeping customers around is one of the best core strategies for any business. And luckily, there are a lot of ways to keep your customers for life. So let’s talk about them.
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Maintain excellent customer service
Let’s do some more statistics. A study conducted by Dimensional Research found that 97% of customers who have had bad experiences with businesses shared their issues with others. Not only that, more than half of them shared their negative experiences with more than five people.
On a more positive note, 24% of customers patronized businesses for years after having a positive experience with them. So, it is in your best interest as a business owner to keep your customers happy. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.
Set your standards and communicate them to your team
You first need to identify how you’re going to treat your customers and what your priorities are when offering customer service. You need to consider your guidelines for answering customer queries and which aspects are your priorities, i.e., response times, deliveries, service quality, etc. Once you have that clearly defined, ensure that everyone in your business knows them so that the standard of service is the same throughout your operations.
Empower your employees to make the right call
Your management structure must allow for some degree of autonomy regarding customer service. This will allow your employees the authority to make decisions for the customer’s well-being without having to run to a supervisor or manager for approval. Examples include offering discounts, credits, refunds, advanced appointments, callback scheduling, daily wellness checks, and any additional assistance as the circumstances require.
Listening and effective communication at every step
More than 70% of the respondents from the previous survey attributed their negative experiences to repeatedly explaining their issues to multiple people. This gives the impression that nobody in the business listens to them. And, by extension, they think the business does not care about their problems.
Active and empathetic listening is one of the core skills in customer service and retention. You and your team must display genuine interest in your customers’ issues and feedback and be willing to act upon them. Also, don’t forget to follow up on them and their concerns, even after resolution. This shows that you actually care about them and their business.
Open lines of communication
Take advantage of technology to give your customers more ways to contact you in their preferred channels. Emails, phone numbers, and even social media pages are great ways to keep in touch with your customers. You can also employ automation to make your workflow more efficient. However, remember that too much automation can diminish the “human touch” of your customer service program. Always look into maintaining a balance between efficiency and satisfaction to improve customer retention.
Customer service is a growing industry, and a lot of changes can happen in a short period. A business owner must stay on top of these changes, find which ones can be applied to their business, and disseminate the information to their team. Frequent training (perhaps once a quarter) can greatly help maintain service standards, introduce new policies, and improve customer service skills.
Offer loyalty programs
Having an excellent product and customer service can go a long way in keeping your customers, sure. But offering them more on top of them can boost your customer retention to ridiculously high degrees.
Loyalty programs are one of the best ways to ensure repeat business from customers. You can offer a variety of things like discounts, perks, points, or other special incentives. However, it is important to consider your customers, their preferences, and your business model when choosing your loyalty program.
The most common loyalty program is the point system, where customers accrue points when buying, which they can use for future purchases. This type of program is best for retail or wholesale businesses. Meanwhile, travel-centric businesses can greatly benefit from tiered programs and memberships. You can also offer exclusive perks to customers reaching a certain level of purchase amounts or duration of service.
Build and maintain trust
Quick question: are you likely to get into business with a company you don’t trust? I’m willing to bet a good chunk of money that your answer is a resounding no. Trust is important in any relationship, including customers and businesses. This goes beyond maintaining consistent and reliable products and services. Breaking trust with customers is a sure way to lose them for life. Here are a few ways to earn and retain customer trust.
100% transparency with the Three Ps
Nobody likes to be surprised by hidden charges and obscure rules concealed in fine print. Your business must maintain full transparency with its pricing, policies, and processes. You can cover this in many ways, from lengthy conversations before sales or in the form of a brochure. One of the best ways to outline how you conduct business, however, is to put all the details on a website. This can serve as a one-stop shop for everything the customer needs to know about your business.
Honor your promises — and always be ready with the receipts
It’s tempting to shower your potential customers with commitments to secure their business. However, you must always temper this impulse with realistic expectations. Over-promising product features or services is one of the most fatal mistakes a business can make. Remember that one negative customer experience is more than likely to be spread around, and you wouldn’t want a reputation of untrustworthiness among potential customers.
Now, this is not to say that you shouldn’t tell customers how your business is better than the competition. By all means, say that your company offers the most responsive vehicle service calls, the most reliable smart home products, or near-perfect translations and transcripts. But always, always be prepared to show proof. Use social media and your website to display testimonials and reviews from satisfied customers. This can work to entice new customers and retain old ones.
Add a personal touch to your customer interactions
Adding a dash of personality to customer interactions whenever possible can help with customer loyalty and retention. This helps solidify the idea that your business is not some soulless, money-grabbing enterprise run by people with the collective personality of an office stapler.
One of the most basic techniques taught in customer service programs is to avoid the excessive use of ‘sirs’ and ‘ma’ams’ when speaking to customers. Address your customers with their names whenever possible and appropriate, remember and bring up details and preferences from previous conversations, offer personalized recommendations, and don’t forget to be authentic with all communications.
Anticipate customer needs
Open communication is a core aspect of any business. But you can take it one level higher by knowing how to anticipate your customers’ needs before they even ask. Like with adding a personal touch, you need to listen closely to customers’ feedback and preferences to be proactive with additional services. A good way to practice being proactive is to conduct “Next Best Action” or NBA whenever they have a query or an issue. Take your customer’s preferences, match them with your business’ capabilities and processes, and offer them the most probable solution for their needs.
Be proactive in fixing issues
Another thing to consider is that no business is perfect, and you’re bound to make a mistake sooner or later. In most instances, that’s not a dealbreaker, but that doesn’t mean the customer should chalk it up as the price of doing business with you. Don’t be afraid to tell them there has been an issue and admit the mistake. Customers will appreciate this kind of honesty. But once you do tell them there’s a problem, you must have a solution either on hand or already being conducted.
Go above and beyond
It’s important to meet customer expectations — but remember that it doesn’t stop there. Exceeding expectations should be your goal in every customer interaction. Take everything we’ve discussed above — customer service, retention programs, customer trust, personal trust, and being proactive — and crank it up to eleven. Of course, there will be expenses associated with improving those aspects of your business. It’s a delicate balance, for sure, and one that requires deep and strategic consideration.
On the other hand, retaining customers for life can guarantee a constant income stream.
But it’s not all about the money. Customers are the beating heart of any business, and giving them the best experience possible is a very fulfilling objective. It will also make them come back for more, which can translate into a longer lifespan for your enterprise.