Eight Ways to Retain Your Customers

Show Appreciation

You’ve provided a product or a service, but they’ve given you their business – often when they could have given it to one of your many competitors. Show them you appreciate that.  Say thank you at the end of the phone call and make sure it’s automatically included at the end of letters, emails, order acknowledgments and dispatch notices.  Compliment slips and discount coupons tucked into parcels are a good thank you gesture too.

Communicate effectively

On first contact, ask potential customers how they want to be contacted, and provide a range of options. Do they want texts, emails, phone calls or letters? Do they want to receive every special offer you create, or just weekly or monthly updates and offers? Once you know their contact preferences, adhere to them. Firstly, it’s the right thing to do – they’ve given you their contact details and their trust. Secondly, bombarding customers with unwanted messages is a great way to make sure they block your emails and your phone number and never order from you again. Keep them up to date with news and offers, but try to ensure that not every communication they get from you is a hard sell.

 Ask Their Opinion

It’s important to get customer feedback. It makes customers feel their opinions are important and that you’re hearing them. It also helps you to adapt your business to what they want and need, helping your business to grow and prosper. Think carefully though about how you ask their opinion. It’s likely that many of your customers are very busy people; long surveys may sit in their inbox ignored for weeks – possibly forever.  Try including one vital question that’s easy to answer in your standard emails.  Consider stamped and addressed reply cards or ask their opinion at the end of a phone call.  Respond quickly and positively to any feedback you receive, be it through a survey or question you’ve sent out, a comment on social media or a post on a review site. Ensure that you have a way to record this feedback efficiently, so that you can use it to inform your plans.

Provide Great Customer Service

This relates closely to the last two points.  Go the extra mile to ensure your customers or clients are happy. They’ll remember it.  Deliver on your promises; whether it’s ethical packaging, next day delivery, late night appointments or membership benefits, if you tell them you do it, DO IT. The flip side? Don’t make over-ambitious promises you can’t keep. Respond quickly to complaints and queries, and do so with a smile. Be grateful to get a complaint you can deal with and learn from, because that’s far better for business than those complaints heard by all the friends and family of a grumbling customer who never gets in touch. Make sure you’re easy to contact in a range of ways; a clearly displayed phone number, address and email, social media details and an online contact form should all be in place.  If you sell products online or in print catalogues, make sure you give full, accurate details.

Ensure your website is easy to search and use, and that it’s accessible on all devices. Prejudice and stereotyping have as little place in business as they do in the rest of life, so don’t patronise or make assumptions about your customers – and treat each of them with equal courtesy and respect.

 Confess Quickly

If something goes wrong and you can’t put it right in time, tell the customer immediately. No supplies of that 48-colour paint set they’ve ordered? Tell them you’re having an issue getting stock. If you can, give them a date when it will be available; if not, be honest. Try to offer an alternative solution, such as a special deal on an alternative product. Perhaps two of your 24-colour paint sets will be acceptable, particularly at a discount? Refund them swiftly if that’s what they want, and deliver alternative products when the original one was expected, if humanly possible!

Don’t Be Unfaithful

It’s tempting to continually flirt with new or potential customers, but it can be far more cost-effective to spend some time and money retaining the customers you already have. Ensure customers are rewarded for their loyalty, rather than leaving them embittered by all the introductory offers you promote!

Reassure them that you’re An Expert

Hint: This means you really should be an expert. If you specialise in selling aromatherapy oils and products, for instance, then you should be able to answer questions about cautions and contraindications. You shouldn’t be selling them if you think they’re just oils that smell nice and don’t have the potential to do more than cause a little eczema. Be an expert in the products you sell or the service you provide, and share that expertise through blog posts and newsletters. Make your expertise part of the added value you offer customers.

Share your Values and Be Human

Do you have a charity you support, or charities picked annually for donations? Let your customers know, and tell them why you chose those charities. Are they local? Do they support people with a condition that you or an employee suffers from? Don’t be afraid to let a little friendliness and humour creep into your interactions with customers; this will help the relationship, not hinder it. For a great example of this, try following the Twitter feed of Innocent Drinks for a while. Employees could take it in turns to blog about their day in the office and their role, their search for ethical producers, training they’ve undertaken, their visits to suppliers, their attempt to get colleagues to go green… anything!

Let your customers know you are human beings, and that as individuals and as a company, you care about your customers, the service you provide and the environment they live in.

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