By Steven Lauterback, Guest Blogger
Repeat business is a substantial, reliable revenue source for companies of all sizes. Plus, retaining existing customers can cost significantly less than acquiring new ones. Here are some ways to ensure that you can keep your customers coming back time after time.
CUSTOMER SERVICE MUST GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
Today, customers demand outstanding customer service, plain and simple. According to a recent study by RightNow Technologies, 60% of customers are willing to pay more for great customer service, even in a down economy. And, 86% of consumers may stop doing business with you due to a negative customer experience – that’s 27% more consumers demanding great customer service than in 2005.
CONFRONT PROBLEMS HEAD ON…AND APOLOGIZE!
According to a Wall Street Journal article, 92% of consumers trust their own online research, including other user reviews, more than the information received from a salesperson. Negative customer experiences can threaten new and loyal customers alike once they are posted online. Apologizing for mistakes and proactively correcting your customer service errors can save you from customers defecting.
COMMUNICATE, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT SELLING
Connecting with your customers outside of the sales arena is important to building relationships and ensuring loyalty.
As a small business leader, you are the face of your company. Loyalty can be built within personal relationships that are cultivated with a personal touch. Use your face, your phone call, your handwriting, your in-person appearance to convince customers that their business is personally appreciated and valued by you.
Do you have a newsletter reporting relevant and timely ideas related to your business or industry? Do you operate a blog on your website? Are you running events and inviting your customers? Communicating with customers even when you’re not selling shows that you have a genuine interest in building your business relationships.
LEARN (AND RE-LEARN) YOUR CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS
Customers, even loyal ones, can stray due to competition and changing demands. It is your responsibility to anticipate and satisfy their needs. Your customers will only stay loyal to your business as long as your product is satisfying their needs. If your business doesn’t adapt, the relationship is in jeopardy. Understanding needs and how they might change over time is a critical step in keeping their business.
One method to learn about changing needs is to ask defecting customers why they have decided to leave. You may be surprised by their answers. Correcting the problem that caused one customer to leave could save you from losing more in the future or help you regain defecting customers’ trust. This applies to problems as simple as one poorly handled customer service call, to problems as complex as products that no longer meet your customers needs.
AND, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO RESORT TO PRICE CUTS
Sometimes when companies begin to lose customers, desperation seems to set in. For many, the best and simplest strategy is to slash prices to entice customers back. However, this method often backfires since this is an assumption about why your customers actually decided to leave without relying on the appropriate research. In the face of customers who desert your business, it’s important to assume that their needs changed in a way you were not anticipating, and not just because your prices were too high. That may very well be the reason your customers are leaving, but reacting too hastily with price cuts can have a destructive impact on your bottom line.
Customer retention is one crucial way to keep your business healthy and sustainable.
Image credit: Forbes.