Let’s face it: Getting customers is easy most times compared to actually keeping them. There’s so much competition to contend with these days, it’s near impossible to keep running with the best prices in your industry, your city; your little cozy niche that nobody knows about… Yet!
Then one day Joe Bigtime, who’s been watching your every move and figuring out how to do it even better than you, strolls into town and upsets everything you’ve been working toward. While you’ve been focusing on customer acquisition, your retention efforts have been left on the back-burner.
Suddenly, your customer’s lack of loyalty toward your business, and your obvious lack of loyalty toward getting their business again and again becomes of significant importance to your bottom line.
There’s a well known old saying all business owners need to heed: “Nothing lasts forever.”
If you’re not spending as much time figuring out how to hang onto your current customers as you are at attracting the new breed, you’ll wake up one day and find a tornado bearing down on your business, with no hope of sheltering yourself from the inevitable.
Here’s 7 best practices you need to apply to your retention plan – yesterday!
1. Each customer should be your best customer
Every customer needs to feel like they’re your best, even if they’re the farthest thing from it. As long as they’re not crossing any predetermined boundaries and being mostly respectful, they’re contributing to your success.
Consider how you’d feel if every time you went to your dentist they just walked in with a face mask on, told you to open your mouth, and got straight to work because he/she’s busy and has to hurry to move onto their next client?
At least by me dinner first, right? Or make a little small talk and ask me how’s it going…
Take the time to develop relationships. Very FEW customers will expect you to spend an hour talking to them and for those that do, it’s important to remember that they deserve just as much respect as the next person.
2. Incentivize like there’s no tomorrow
There’s a lot of chatter in the marketing world about trying to offer customers something unique that nobody else is offering. This is a noble strategy for some businesses, but all but impossible for many others.
Don’t get sucked into the line of thinking that you need to necessarily be unique. If you can, do so. If not, just make sure you’re not offering peanuts when your competitor’s offering free truffles to their repeat customers.
Buy one, get one free offers are great. Coupons for free shipping on orders over $50 can be very effective. Regardless of your offering, keep offering them enticing reasons to come back and spend more money.
3. Listen to feedback and show customers you’re taking action on it
Your ability to listen to feedback and give the crowd what they want is like combining the first 2 tips together for a double-whammy. Customers love to be listened to, made to feel important.
Imagine the feeling they get when you decide to let them customize their order the way they want it at your burger joint, or that you decide to offer a wider range of sizes at your clothing, shoe, or jewelry store?
Customers will tell you how you can make more money, if you let them!
4. Follow up when you haven’t seen them in a while
It never hurts to pick up the phone and call or send a text. Heck, even an email is just fine. Ask them why you haven’t seen them in a while. No pressure, but have their circumstances changed? Did they receive sub-par service on the last go?
You won’t know any of these things if the customer stops ordering and you never take the time to ask them why. Perhaps one of your service people needs coaching – or needs to be let go for offending your best customers?
Remember, they’re all your best customers…
Give them a few months, continue to send incentives to them. If you don’t hear from them over the course of a month or three, it’s time to dig in and find out why – straight from the horse’s mouth!
They’ll appreciate it, and you may find out that they just haven’t needed what you offer for a while; or creating that dialogue will help you find a way to get them back if your business did something to scare them away.
5. Encourage them to bring new customers to you
Spas offer a “buy one treatment, get another half off” events. High end restaurants will comp their good customers meals if they bring new clientele in to dine at their establishment. Trades offer referral bonuses to customers who direct new business their way.
What you choose to do depends on your business and how affordable your services are to offer at a discount. Remember that word-of-mouth (referrals) are everything. One referral could turn into a hundred new customers over a few short years.
6. Be that person who “knows a guy”
Or “knows a guy who knows a guy.” Help people with problems they have that’s outside the scope of your business. Say you own a vintage clothing store. Does that mean you shouldn’t turn your customer onto the best mechanic or Realtor in the city because you yourself don’t offer that service?
Heck no! Why keep that insider info to yourself when it can transform you from a simple business owner into that guy who hooked them up with a great deal in their time of need?
When you do things for people and get paid for it, you’re a professional. When no compensation is needed on their part for your help, you help to bridge the gap between professional and friend.
7. Provide the Best Products or Services Possible
Being the best at what you do and/or selling the best quality products at the best price possible is easily the most effective way to retain customers – if you follow the first 6 tips, then apply this principle too.
Don’t feel the need to start bringing in junk parts, products, and personnel just to compete with everyone else. Set yourself apart with great above-and-beyond service and/or the best products to fit their budget, and they’ll always keep coming back for more.
Do you have any customer service best practices that you use in your business which aren’t listed on this page?