Customer retention, amidst others factors, determine the success of any business – both large and small. It isn’t enough to acquire convert leads to paying customers; retaining them makes a huge difference.
It is sad to know that many businesses, particularly start-ups, turn blind eye to the one thing that influences business growth the most: customer retention. They choose to focus more on acquiring new sales lead, and in so doing lose their customers to their competitors.
Don’t make your customers feel as though they don’t matter. Don’t get so fixated at expanding your customer base that you leave out those that have done business with you. In fact, 68% of your sales will come from them.
Best of all, it costs less to market to previously acquired custom than new ones.
That being said, here are customer retention strategies which when used effectively will ensure your annual sales keep ticking upwards.
#1. Offer them top notch customer service
Your customers will always have reasons to come knocking on your doors after doing business with you. They may want to make a complaint, find out more about the product/service they bought or just ask a couple of questions.
Someone, a customer service personnel to be precise, has to be on ground at all times to answer their queries. A real person, not some bots that lack empathy, should respond to your customers’ queries.
Bad customer service can quickly ruin your business, and you know why? A disgruntled customer can start up a cataclysmic campaign on social media that will so hurt your business.
#2. Maintain an active social media business page
Social media serve a twofold benefit to businesses; customer acquisition and customer retention. More often than not, businesses new to the social media thing fail to tend to their social media pages due to misplaced priorities.
A dormant social media page, or one cluttered with only ads, repulses people. The key to achieving business success with social media is making out time for those who care about your brand. And yes, if they liked your page, it means they care about what you have got to say.
#3. Keep them engaged by hosting events regularly
Customers appreciate it when they know that their patronage is highly valued and that you aren’t just interested in milking them.
Give them this special feeling of being valued by hosting social events; parties, product launch and seminars are good fits.
A note of caution, though – don’t pummel your customers with salesy messages during such events. Doing so will create the exact opposite of what you wish to achieve – turn them off rather than retaining them.
#4. Keep up with market competition
No matter your niche or model of business, you will always face competition – it’s the necessary evil that comes with doing business.
Competitors, when they emerge newly, have one major goal: sniff out lapses in the market and then taking advantage of them. Isn’t that the strategy Facebook used to unseat bigger and established social networks like MySpace?
Customers stay loyal to a particular brand for two major reasons: good quality and good price. Should someone else entice them with something similar that is of high quality and lesser price, chances are they will instantly make a switch.
So paying close attention to the offerings of a competitor makes a lot of sense. Your goal; to find out areas of weakness your competitor is taking advantage of. This should be a continuous process.
#5. Make your operations seamless
Nothing annoys a customer more than spending over an hour doing something that could have been done in less than 10 minutes. Allow them to go through irritating hassles, and you will end up converting them to loyal followers for your competitors.
Here are some simple rules to follow
- If you accept payment via credit card, make it easy for them to wipe out their credit cards.
- If you accept payment on your website, don’t make them go through several hoops when making payments.
- If you run a phone order service, don’t make a customer wait more than 2 minutes on the phone line when trying to place an order.
- Deliver a product/service as at when agreed. Don’t keep them waiting, else you would lose their custom.
#6. Build trust, solidify relationships
Do you know why big brands still continue to dominate the market even in the face of fierce competition? Trust. It isn’t their huge marketing budget that has kept them ahead of the pack, but the trust they have been able to establish.
When a customer trusts your product/service, they become your brand’s ambassador. They will go out of their way to promote your business to others even without being paid – that’s free marketing for you.
Portray yourself as fella that can’t be trusted, and you will have no one else but yourself to blame.
Thankfully, establishing trust with your customers isn’t rocket science. You need not hire an expert marketer or brand strategist to make your business trustworthy in the eyes of your customers.
- Under promise, but over deliver. Not the other way round.
- Quality should be your watch word
- Treat a disgruntled customer like a friend, not a foe
- If your product has limitations, let them know upfront.
- Engage with them on a personal note. Send them birthday messages, address their concerns quickly – let them feel they are truly valued.
Bottom line: avoid shortcuts.
#7. Reward, give out incentives freely
Who doesn’t love freebies! Even something as small as a free candy can mean a lot to a customer.
Make your brand a talk of the town by rewarding customers who have done business repeatedly with you. Something as simple – and of course cheap – as a voucher or sticker cards will do.
Be creative, be attentive, find out what makes them tick.
The path to success is devoid of shortcuts, and it is pretty long, too. All puzzles need to be pieced together for a new business to emerge strong, and one of such puzzles is customer retention.
As a rule of thumb, put in as much resources to making your customers happy and satisfied, than acquiring new ones.