One of the essentials to starting and running a business is customer retention.
If you work in sales or are in charge of business development, chances are you’ve heard the phrase, “It is cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one”. Regardless of what industry you work in, it is important to keep your existing customers happy and constantly evolve your business to keep up with the competition. That last thing you want is to lose out on a loyal customer because you didn’t know they were shopping around for other options.
But how can you be sure you are doing everything you can to retain your customer base? We are glad you asked! In fact, we asked the same question to 10 business leaders and they shared their best tips with us.
- Perform regular performance reviews
- Personalize your follow-ups
- Include unexpected bonus products
- Properly qualify your customers
- Validate your ideas with customers
- Train your team to be customer service mavericks
- Put your expertise on display
- Offer multiple support channels
- Be transparent from the start
- Leverage technology
Perform regular performance reviews
Oftentimes, working in customer service can be tricky as you can never teach someone how to respond to all the different interactions they may have with various customers. That is why it is important to take the time to sit down with them on a regular basis and applaud them for a job well done and identify where they can improve to retain more customers.
Elliot Greenberg, Touchfree Concepts
Personalize Your Follow-Ups
Small businesses have the ability to deliver more personalized customer services and follow-up. I knew of a small retail business that kept track of customer preferences and targeted marketing to their customers accordingly. Customers appreciate receiving targeted marketing and mailings as opposed to a regular one-size-fits-all catalog or what would be considered spam. A sincere follow-up with your customers is a great retention tool. Be sure to thank your customers for all the feedback you receive. Even if you don’t agree, it may be very helpful to you in the future!
Colleen McManus, Senior HR Executive and Consultant
Include Unexpected Bonus Products
One of the best things we’ve done to improve customer service and retain more customers is including unexpected bonuses in our products. People are surprised to find these gifts and appreciate them. I guess we’re following the classic advice of “underpromise and overdeliver.” I’ve found it more effective to say you’re getting A and B, then deliver A, B, and C to a customer. It significantly reduces complaints and also increases the number of referrals, social shares, etc. we receive.
James Pollard, The Advisor Coach LLC
Properly Qualify Your Customers Before Doing Business
I think one of the best things a small business can do to improve customer service and retain more customers is to properly qualify them before doing business in the first place. Many small businesses are hungry for any business transaction and can sometimes lead to wasted time, poor customer experiences, and bad online reviews. Qualifying them like getting two phone numbers, a personal address, a credit card on file, setting expectations, contracts, and other underwriting needs can protect your reputation while improving trust immediately. SOPs and underwriting can remove a potentially bad relationship from the start while improving long-term retention for current customers with a great standardized business process of the customer service cycle(s).
Patrick Menzel, Internal Profits, LLC
Validate your Ideas with Customers
Interview your customers. Businesses can invent many different ways to improve customer service and retain more customers. But, until they validate those ideas with customers, these ideas are just well-intentioned assumptions. A small business can request an “interview” with customers to seek their insights, validate internal ideas, and arrive at a consensus on how to improve operations.
Megan Chiamos, Marketing Manager
Train Your Team To Be Customer Service Mavericks
Small businesses can do many simple no- (or low-) cost strategies to retain more customers. The simplest one is to train your entire team to be customer service mavericks. Give your staff the latitude to make some decisions when helping a customer. This will reduce complaints and the customer being transferred all over the place. Next, follow up. Simple, but most businesses do not follow up with their customers. Follow up after the sale is made to see if everything is OK and get their feedback. Then follow up with them on a regular basis. Follow up with the prospect that said no last month.
Steve Feld, Business Breakthrough Strategist
Put Your Expertise on Display
The two best pieces of advice I can give are selling expertise for free and making clients feel appreciated and respected. Examples of selling expertise for free are a blog, newsletter, and free demos for potential clients. These tools build our credibility, showing our clients and leads that we know what we are talking about, and they encourage them to trust us and trust that our product will benefit them further. You can make clients feel appreciated by consistently thanking them for their business. Because you are the one offering the service, it may feel natural to say you’re welcome when they thank you. However, without them, your business would not be successful. So, they deserve to be thanked! In the same breath, you should graciously answer any questions they may have. Even if they do not buy from you, they will remember your kindness and will tell their friends and family.
Karen Gordon, Goodshuffle Pro
Offer Multiple Support Channels
The more channels you can offer for a customer to communicate the greater the improvement in customer service. Some customers prefer to contact verbally such as on the phone while others prefer to contact via writing such as a Live Chat facility. This is also guided by the type of business you run but consider all the communication channels that can improve customer satisfaction and retention.
Joe Flanagan, VelvetJobs
Be Transparent From the Start
Usually, the most engaged customers are those who came to you by recommendation of your current or past clients. Be honest and transparent to start receiving referrals or retain customers. Even if you have problems at the beginning of your cooperation with a new client, your honesty, willingness to work as a single team, involvement, and focus on bringing value to the client’s business can influence how long your relationship will last. The way you communicate and show your work process is crucial for professionals. It should not be the clients’ task to ask about the intermediate results. The best thing you can do is to get ahead and make the whole process transparent in the beginning. Leave constant updates, don’t hide discussions, show the way you think, and make decisions. With such an approach, you will definitely gain respect from your clients, secure long-term partnerships, start receiving referrals, and retain customers.
Yulia Garanok, datarockets
Create personalized marketing campaigns that provide timely information and promotions which are targeted to your individual customer’s preferences and habits. By spending time early on to set up systems that allow you to track and manage each interaction you have with your customer, you can make future interactions feel unique and special.
Nicole Spracale, Coaching and Consulting
Brett Farmiloe is the Founder of Terkel, a knowledge platform that creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at terkel.io to answer questions and get published.
Customer retention stock photo by George Rudy/Shutterstock