If you struggle to keep customers on board with your brand -- don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Via a 2015 survey conducted by Constant Contact, retaining existing customers (40%) is one of the top 3 leading concerns among U.S. small business owners.
Regardless of your business’ industry, age, location or demographic, holding onto your customers is vital to your brand’s lifeline. Your customer base is the bread and butter of your bottom line. So what can you do? Treating them a little like family will go a long way. If you want loyalty, treat them like royalty. Can’t be too hard, right? Here are 11 tips for retaining customers.
Start with a firm handshake. This works both literally and figuratively. Whether meeting your customers (or prospective customers) in person or virtually, first impressions are critical. Strive to position your business in a positive space in his/her memory. Making a strong introduction will serve you well when it comes time for a customer’s future purchase decisions.
Make them feel at home. A welcome package or program is an essential piece of your relationship with a customer. An introductory phone call, email or visit demonstrates that the brand is personally invested in the customer. Offering a welcoming environment to your customer base will allow you to set expectations, provide policies and learn more about those supporting your business.
Don’t fade away. Competition is fierce in every market. Nurture your customers with periodic phone calls, visits and recognition. BBB’s Community Outreach Team is out in the field, connecting with Accredited Businesses in our service area. Our Specialists take this time to answer questions, update on BBB offerings and align a face with the brand. According to Strativity, frequency of interaction builds loyalty and advocacy: 87% daily, 64% weekly, 49% monthly and 33% few times/year. Staying in touch with your customers allows you to show appreciation for their support as well as keep your brand top-of-mind (and hopefully in front of your competitors). It also presents an opportunity for educating on product and service offerings.
Easy like Sunday morning. Make working with your business painless. Daunting processes, especially online, detract from the customer experience. Keep things easy to navigate. The same goes for when it comes time to renew a contract with your customer. The easier it is for the user to stay loyal, the more appealing it will be and the higher likelihood they’ll continue to choose you. Customers crave an effortless and efficient experience.
Customers are the real MVP. Keep your regulars happy by incorporating the art of personalization. Whether it’s an email, phone call or marketing materials -- do your best to customize their experience with your brand. Make your MVP’s feel like VIP’s. A small gesture like a birthday email with a discount or recognizing their business’ milestone will go a long way. Personal offers and recommendations based on their past participation or purchases show you listen to what your customer needs.
Make memories. Just because you make it simple to engage with your business, doesn’t mean it can’t also be memorable. What’s the first thing you’re likely to discuss after interacting with a customer service specialist? Were they nice, helpful, patient or the complete opposite? SDL conducted a global study across three generations and 9 countries and found once a customer experiences what they consider a major customer experience failure, 64% will stop recommending the organization, start looking for an alternative brand or actively disparage the company via word of mouth, social media or other online channels. Be remembered for the right reasons.
Be timely and reliable. As is true in any relationship, communication is key. A study organized by Aspect Software on consumers and their preferences regarding customer service revealed 76% of American shoppers view customer service as a "true test" of how much a brand values them. This means the pressure is on to not disappoint. Don’t panic. Communicate in a timely fashion when fielding inquiries and be accessible. If customers can’t find you to communicate with you, how can you hold up your end of the relationship? Offer official hours for customer service and when your team can’t be available -- ensure that your website offers as much info as possible for troubleshooting when you go dark. Include FAQ’s and how-to’s. Building a dynamic with your customers that includes consistent and reliable communication will breed loyalty. This is equally important when a customer is unhappy. If and when a business receives a complaint via BBB, there is an opportunity for your business to efficiently resolve what might have only been a misunderstanding.
Show gratitude. It goes without saying that producing a quality product or service is imperative in order to keep people coming back. After you’ve made that stellar sale, it’s equally important to thank your customers for well, being a customer. Don’t assume your customers know how much they mean to you. You appreciate them, so why not tell them? And while you are at it -- ask them to tell you about their experience. Customer reviews can provide helpful feedback to help you get a jump on competition, learn about improvements needed and grow your relationship with the customer. And when you get that feedback -- especially if constructive -- don’t let it fall on deaf ears. Let customers know you heard their suggestions and invite them to try something new, different or improved. In some cases, a simple survey with your long term customers can be very eye opening.
Celebrate, good times -- c’mon. The more your customers feel like an MVP, the more likely they’ll be to continue supporting your business. Try reminding them with rewards. The small time and money you spend to reward your devotees will pale in contrast to the return you could see. Offer renewal and or referral programs. Show appreciation for your customers who recommend your product or service to family and friends with a discount or added perks. Better yet, if rewards -- like that 10% coupon you offer, could be shared -- 70% of consumers would shop more often and 45% would spend more!
Keep spinning, to keep winning. Continue to win over your customers by staying relevant. The Earth will keep spinning and so should your brand. In order to continue to offer a solution to a problem, you may very well need to evolve. Stay mindful of what the marketplace is dictating along with what you’re learning from your loyal customers and adjust your business plan as necessary. For example, 80% of Internet users own a smartphone. Is your business mobile-ready? Having a presence where your customers are puts you in a position to succeed. Similarly, offering convenience will always win. Today that means interacting on social media platforms. From NewsCred, 62% of millennials feel that online content drives their loyalty to a brand. And those millennials (ages 18-34)...they make up approximately 75 million of the U.S. population.
All hands on deck. When trying to keep customers on board, make sure your team is on board with the importance of customer satisfaction. Retention doesn’t start and stop with the customer service team alone. The value of your existing customers should be understood business-wide. On average, customer retention rates are 18% higher when employees are highly engaged in the retention program.
We want to know -- how loyal are your customers? What programs or practices do you implement to keep your customers loyal to your brand? For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.