You’re in business, and you know just how incredibly important it is to retain customers. If you’re a CEO or Managing Director, or a senior leader, it’s a topic that will routinely cause you some irritation and stress. If you’re a freelancer or self-employed, it’s probably something that wakes you up in the middle of the night 2-3 times a week (results may vary, but no one is immune).
It’s a major challenge, and if you’re not on top of customer retention, you could quite easily see a significant impact on the bottom line. There’s no way to sugar coat that, it will happen. You may hear ‘experts’ talking about how it’s all about sales and finding new customers. That’s a big part of your success, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to keep customers, loyal customers. Not only do they bring you continuing cash flow, they also become part of your life. Ask anyone who has loyal customers and clients, and they will tell you how great it feels to have people supporting your business.
So yes, customer retention is seriously important. I’ve put together what I like to think is a ‘definitive’ list of strategies you can use to keep hold of customers, and grow with their support and loyalty. It will have gaps, but that’s the nature of customer retention. So expect updates and more strategies in future posts.
So, let’s dig in.
The value of a happy customer
I will go on and on about this for evermore, but a happy customer will help keep your business alive.
So much important stuff here. But look at the fact about reduction of lost customers. Reducing lost customers by just 5% can result in an increase of profits by up to 75%. And look at how 78% of happy customers simply buy more.
Any business that has customers should be holding on to them with both hands. It should be their absolute mission to keep customers happy and content. And here’s how they should doing it.
A communication calendar
Whether you’re a large business or a small one, having a communication calendar is absolutely paramount. Simply by staying in touch with your current customers, you stay in their mind, and they think of you when they need to buy more, or take buying advice.
It’s dead simple to do. Grab a new spreadsheet on Excel (or any other platform) and simply fill out customer names in fields, and dates on when you’re going to call them next. If you’re going to email them, slot those times in too.
This simple little method should allow you to develop a communications calendar. If you have a CRM, you can use that to automate it and add that level of sophistication. If you don’t have a CRM, just fill out your spreadsheet, and commit to contacting each customer at least once a month. Imagine how cool it would be to get a discount code on your birthday, for example. Or a message to give some exciting news about a service they have been using for months.
Some small businesses and freelancers don’t do this. They are too busy chasing clients.
And then they go out of business.
Stay in touch with clients and customers using a calendar. Remember that 78% of customers who will buy more if they are happy and content. Staying in touch with them will make them happy and content.
Underpomise and overdeliver
Freelancers and smaller business owners can take this idea and make it one of the most effective ways to improve what they do.
If I’m creating content for a client, I always give them a clear and honest date for completion.
And then I make sure I try and get the job done before that date.
It’s not hard to see why this works. If you’re trying to make customers happy, giving them what they’re paying for early is a fantastic surprise. It means you care about them and what they do. And it helps them get their stuff done quicker.
And that means they’ll buy from you again. Wouldn’t you?
Accept customer complaints for what they are
Some companies ignore customer complaints. This is not a good idea. If someone has bought from you and they then complain about the product or the service, this is one of the very best ways to give service. It’s an opportunity.
A customer who complains is a customer that is willing to stay as a customer. If you deal with the issue promptly and to the best of your ability, there is a very strong chance that they will buy from you again.
When a customer complains, they are telling you what they feel strongly about, and what they need as customers. If you ignore it, they will leave and never buy from you again. And then they will tell their friends all about it.
Deal with the complaint, and serve that customer well, and they will tell all their friends about it, and probably buy from you again.
Use your information to improve retention
If you’ve been gathering data from existing, happy customers, you are officially armed with a weapon that will allow you to foster customer retention.
Surveys, feedback emails and and anything else that allows you to see why your happy customers are happy will give you the chance to understand what to do moving forward. If a customer, for example, says that they would like to have faster delivery times, work on that as an improvement area.
This is what your customers want to make their experience better, so you know that if you supply this for them, they will enjoy their customer experience more.
Customer service belongs on social media, and the same goes for customer retention. On your social media accounts, look out for mentions of your company and say thank you when you’re praised or your customer service is praised. This is dead easy to do (a tweet takes seconds) but it builds up that interaction that boosts retention.
This is linked to the social media thing because so much customer service is happening on social. Basically, this idea involves you responding as quickly as possible to contact and mentions from customers.The quicker you respond, the better the chance they will come back to you time and time again.
Give long-term customers the biggest discount
You don;t have to go overboard here, but you can certainly consider giving larger discounts and gifts to the customers who have been with you the most.
A certain insurance company recently told me that a premium wasn’t going up because I had been with that company for five years. That’s a lovely thing to hear, and it makes you want to stay with a company.
When working with customers, give them what they want, and do the whole thing in a way that shows you care. The happier and more ‘cared for’ that a customer is, the more it is likely they will come back for more.