Increasing Customer Retention Rate: VIP Customers

Every now and then I’m going to be taking a look at some quick and practical ways in which you can make progress towards retaining more of your customers. Today we are going to focus on the VIP method, where you find your most valuable customers and give them priority and preference, and generally treat them like they are the most important people on Earth.

The 80/20 rule

The Pareto Principle

This is a simple rule, known as the 80/20 rule or The Pareto Principle. It means that, for most things in life, around 80% of the effects come from just 20% of the causes.

Another way of looking at that is ‘for every 100 clients you have, 20 of them will be responsible for most of your revenue’. And it’s true.

Try it out now. Look through your client list and see which clients come with the biggest fees/payments. I guarantee that most of your money comes from 20% of your clients.

That 20% of your clients should be treated like VIPs.

The 80/20 rule is important because it focuses your mind. That 20% of the client list deserves the most attention from you. They give you the bulk of your money.

Making the clients feel like VIPs

Your first job as a freelancer is to make sure that, with your VIP clients, you move Heaven and Earth to keep them happy. You do everything you possibly can to ensure that they get the work when they want it.You bend over backwards to meet every possible request on any brief they give you. In order for them to stay with you and keep giving you the fees they do, you make them feel like they are the only client on Earth.

For example, send them flowers on their birthday. Make sure they are the first to get a discount when you send out your next cycle of discounts. Send them personalised, handwritten notes that say thank you every now and then.

That part about giving them ‘first dibs’ when it’s discount time is a major point. Everyone has been pleased to get a VIP privilege discount flyer through the post, from that store in town you like to buy from. And those little pieces of card that you get at coffee shops where you can build up loyalty points for discounts? They’re popular for a reason.

The Pareto Principle

Of course, every client is important, but focusing on giving the very best treatment to those clients who are worth the most makes sense. You rely on them and their custom to carry the bulk of your business.

Look at your current client list and work out how much money they bring in on a monthly basis.Then look at each individual client and work out the percentage of that money that they are responsible for.

You will soon work out who the VIP clients are, and while they may not amount to an actual 20% of your client list, they will certainly be responsible for 80% of the income.

Stick the VIPs on their own list, and make sure those clients are the first ones you go to when you’re launching a new product/service or marketing campaign. Ensure they get discounts first (as exclusive clients).

They are your most important clients, and by treating this very special group of clients as VIPs, you will enjoy their custom for years to come.

Stick around, and if you’d like to get my posts as soon as they come out, subscribe and/or follow me for more advice on client retention. And if you want a little bit of extra help finding clients on LinkedIn, try Dux-Soup.

How do you increase sales?

When you’re freelancing, you need a steady flow of sales so that you don’t run out of money. That’s basically it. It’s as crude as that. No tricks, no fancy charts.You either keep selling your service or you die.

This puts most freelancers in a tricky position. They probably haven’t had any sales training. They don’t understand how hard it is to get a good, qualified lead, and then close that sale. In fact, most freelancers think that their work doesn’t (or shouldn’t) involve sales, at least not in the conventional sense. Selling is a dirty word. They’re an artist, and artists don’t sell.

Some artists don’t eat much, either.

If you’re freelancing, get some systems in place that allow you to sell on a regular basis. Only through consistent and purposeful selling will regular freelance income appear. Realise this, and get to work.

The following principles are important.

Stay consistent with the process

Set aside some time every day for prospecting and communicating with leads. Do this every day. If you don’t, then you are losing momentum. Anyone who has ever sold professionally will know that momentum is everything. It takes time to build sales, and this means that you won’t see results for a while. If you’ve been consistent all that time, things tend to just fall into place.

I know this works. And it usually takes about a week. A week of solid prospecting and pitching, and when that is done, everything else just falls into place.

Listen

When you talk more than you listen on a sales call, you’re making the prospect feel like they don’t count. Turn this on it’s head. Listen for at least 70% of the time. This way, the prospect feels better and more relaxed, and the pressure around the whole situation is reduced.

Work on yourself

Everyone around you knows that you are amazing. But the people you are going to be calling know nothing about you, and they really couldn’t care less.

Make them sit up and take notice with your tone. Your voice should be confident and clear, so that the prospect knows they have someone on the line who knows how to do business.

Keep practising your offer. And start believing that you are truly worth your prospect’s money. Being confident and believing in yourself will bring you more success.

Be confident on price

You have valued your services at a certain level. Stick to it. You’ve worked out how much you need in order to eat and have a roof over your head. And you’ve worked out how much you need to make a profit. And that’s how much you charge.

Unfortunately, some freelancers think they have to reduce their fee to get a sale. This is not the case. In fact, clients will respect you a whole lot more if you have done your homework, and you know what you are worth.

Once I was having coffee with a prospect and he asked me how much I charged for my content creation. He almost spluttered out his coffee when I told him how much and he said that ‘no one will pay that’.

Actually, many clients do, and they get great work in return. And as it happens, he went out of business a year later. His argument was that people would pay for lots of work if it was ‘cheap’.

I think he may have used that same argument in his business plan.

You’re not cheap. You’re a professional freelancer. Stick to your price.

Set goals

Finally, if you want to get the most out of selling, and get better results, set some goals.

Even if the goal is as simple as ‘I need to pitch ten mid-level prospects this week’, it’s still a worthy goal. If you don’t pitch those ten prospects, you haven’t given yourself the chance to achieve anything.

Focus on what needs to be done to keep a strong pipeline of sales coming in, and make goals that fit that process. Believe me, if you don’t have goals, you just won’t get anything done.

Those are some of my tips that will help you increase sales as a freelancer.

I am also a big believer in using LinkedIn. If you’re at square one with finding leads on LinkedIn, you need something like Dux-Soup. Silly name, serious results.

I’m an affiliate, just so you know.

Should you go freelance (3 big questions)?

If you have a particular skill or hobby that you enjoy, it can seem like going freelance is a good choice. Sometimes it may even feel like it’s the obvious choice. For people who are in a job that they hate, for example, it can seem like the only way to rid themselves of the frustration and stress is to go freelance.

However, freelancing is not something you can just jump into because you’re annoyed with your boss. Freelancing is a big deal. There is plenty of stress and frustration in freelance work, and if you’re not in the right frame of mind you could be in serious trouble within weeks of ‘ditching the day job’.

There are so many experts and Gurus online right now who are talking about the day they quit their job and decided to go freelance so they could make millions. I’m here to tell you that there are many reasons to not become a freelancer.

Right now, if you’re thinkning about going freelance, you need to take a look at the following areas.

Have you got clients?

If you don’t have a ready-made (or nearly ready-made) client base to jump into, stay put. Once you start freelancing, cash flow becomes everything, and if you don’t have at least a few clients that pay well, you’re going to struggle within the first few months (and that’s even if you have the next thing on this list taken care of).

Having a ready client base gives you confidence, and it allows you to focus on doing your best work for a reasonable fee, rather than accepting any wok that comes your way. So don’t become a freelancer until you have a solid list of clients.

Have you got six month’s of savings?

This is vital. It is absolutely important that you have some money saved up. This gives you a cushion financially, allowing you to focus on building the business rather than just paying the bills.

Another thing to consider is the fact that freelance work isn’t salaried work. You are paid when you complete a job, and jobs are often spaced out, so one day you could be full of work, and the next day you will have nothing to do.

Of course, you may be thinking that sounds great. But when you have nothing to do, you’re not being paid. Freelancers have to continuously manage the stress of not being paid. And it is rare (when you start out) to have a continuous flow of work.

Six months of savings is what you need. And I mean enough to support your current standard of living.

Do people want what you do?

This is something that every freelancer has to think about before they make the leap from salaried work to a freelance environment.

You make great sculptures. Your friends love them and you sold one or two at a craft fair.

This does not mean that you can become a freelancer.

You write great content that you know people like reading. Some of your friends say you should write a book on the subject.

This does not mean that you can become a freelancer.

You make beautiful items of jewelry. You sell a few every week at the local outdoor market. Your customers say you should start a business.

This does not mean that you can become a freelancer.

Unless you are selling consistently, and you have plenty of people asking you for more of what you do, and there is a long list of leads ahead of you, don’t bother.

Freelancers need to make money. Unless there is a healthy, vibrant market for your product, you are going to run out of cash flow very quickly.

Keep selling. But until you know that there is a long list of people out there who want what you do, stay in your day job.

Believe me, it makes a huge difference.

4 expert cold calling tips you need to know

At least part of your day should be spent looking for new business. If you aren’t on the phones for a daily block of time, you’ll find your cash flow drying up very quickly. Selling your services is absolutely vital.

At the same time, I know it’s hard. If you are on your own, or you have a very small team, picking up that phone to call people so that you can sell to them can be very challenging.

So what I’ve done for this post is put together a little list of ways in which you can prepare before any cold call you are going to make. Build these into your preparation before you pick up that phone and you will feel 100% better.

Make sure you know their name

If you carry out a LinkedIn search for the prospect you are focusing on, you should find a goldmine of information upon which you can build a successful cold call. But if there is one easy way to crash and burn within the first few seconds of a call, it’s through not knowing what the prospect likes to be called.

A cold call is exactly that, it’s ‘cold’. You do not know the person you are speaking to. But if you went to their office for a meeting, or you were introduced to them at a party, isn’t it fair to say that you know their first name?

Usually, and this is one of the best things about LinkedIn and Facebook, you will find their ‘preferred name’ somewhere. A Johnathan might like to be called John, for example.

We’re not talking about over familiarity here. Most people will have a name they like to be called by, so find it.

And whatever you do, don’t get their name wrong.

Find their position

If you are just starting out as a freelancer, you can easily find yourself talking to some very nice people when you are cold calling a company. Unfortunately, you can also find yourself talking to some very nice people who don’t have the authority or the budget to buy what you are selling.

When you are researching your leads, spend some time working out the size of the company you are approaching. If it has 5-10 employees, you will probably need to go as senior as you can to find the right person to pitch to.

A good rule of thumb here for small to medium-sized businesses is to aim for the most senior position you can when cold calling. They won’t be too hard to find because the company is small. You won’t get a call with Richard Branson, for example, because he is at the top of a pile of thousands of people. But if you’re focusing on small companies (and freelancers do, most of the time), you should be able to get to the senior team and their names pretty quickly.

Don’t waste your time cold calling a head of sales, for example. They are not in the right position to buy. The same goes for the HR lead.

Find the Marketing Director as a starting point. Then keep digging until you start to find names of other senior figures. Then, when you pick up a phone, you’ll know that your conversation is not going to be a waste of time.

That will do a lot for your confidence during cold calling and lead generation.

Pro tip

There are now more ‘CEO’s’ than ever before in human history. When searching for a CEO on a LinkedIn search, beware the solo entrepreneur who has made their title ‘CEO’. Always check the company size.

It may sound grand, and worth pitching, but it could be a guy in his bedroom on a computer. Yes, they may be ‘crushing it’ as a CEO, but I’ve always found that the solo entrepreneur who thinks she is a CEO is really spending more time on her image, rather than her business. Pitch, by all means, but be ready for a potential client who does not have the budget you need.

Have 3 responses ready for blockers

Many early sales cold calls implode because the people doing the calling aren’t prepared for ‘blocking’. This is where you encounter a prospect who simply fobs you off within the first 30 seconds.

We’re not going to dig too deep into this right now, but you’re being blocked when someone says they ‘don’t have time’ for your call, for example. Or they might ask for an ‘information pack’, before you’ve actually told them what you’re offering.

The worst quick block to experience is obviously the flat ‘no’.

You need to get on that call only after you have prepared 3 clear responses to blocks. When you nave practiced these 3 responses, and drilled them so they are part of your general response every time, you should see much more success.

It is vital that you have some prepared responses to blocks. Seriously, if you don’t have 3 ready responses, blocks will shut you down in a moment. And that’s a wasted prospect.

Practise

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Aristotle

Every day, if you can (and you know, maybe you should make it so you can), take some time to practice. Your cold calling work will benefit hugely if you are comfortable with the process. And practice makes perfect.

Call friends and ask them to be horrible and confrontational on the phone when you try and sell them something. Give them a list of objections that your prospect list will throw at you. It’s worth doing, and all practice is useful.

Stand in front of a mirror and practice breathing so that your voice is clear and strong, so that you feel more confident.

Write down every single objection you can imagine your prospects giving you, and write down and then verbally practice every response. This isn’t to take away from your skills, but this rote learning of objections and responses just makes you a more confident seller.

However you handle cold calling, good luck. It takes perseverance and guts to get more clients this way. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How to get your first few freelance clients online

Freelancers do not have it easy. And when they are just starting out, it’s scary stuff. But if you focus on just a few activities and approaches, you should find that it isn’t too long before you get your first one or two clients.

I’ve put together a very quick list of ways to find and get your first freelance clients. The whole thing can be managed online too.

(1) Go to Craigslist

Yes, I’m being deadly serious. Craigslist is full of some of the most ridiculously pointless stuff on the planet. It’s also full of weird requests and scarily strange people.

But you can find your very first freelance client on there.

Note that I used ‘client’ and not ‘clients’. I certainly would not recommend scouring the platform to find a set of clients. It’s way too hit and miss for that. But if you’re just starting out, and you need some work, believe me, it can help.

Stay safe, and always work out the job specifics before you commit to anything. Draw a contract up if you need to. But use it if you’re panicking because you haven’t got your first client yet. Because once you’ve got that first client…

(2) Hit the job boards

Again, this is not a career-building move. Far from it. But I do know freelancers who have made hundreds of thousands just off these sites alone.

And there is a clear reason for this.

Every single job board, from Upwork to People Per Hour, and everything in between, is based upon freelancer reputation. This means that if you get some work on there you should be doing your very best to get a great review.

Get enough great reviews and the number of jobs awarded to you rises, until you are soon in a position where you could find yourself with a respectable side-income.

And that’s where I would keep it. On the side.

You could go all out, and try for that hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that does mean spending your life on the platforms, investing considerably in ‘credits’ or ‘bids’ (the usual currency on the sites) so that you can keep pitching.

As a step up from Craigslist, it’s a great idea. And it means you should soon be building up a sizable portfolio.

It takes time to get to the end of this stage of the journey though. But of course, nothing in life is for free.

(3) Ask for referrals

All this time you should have been producing your very best work. Even though you will have been most likely working for well below industry rates, you will have been creating stuff that makes clients smile, and feel like you’re very much indispensable. That’s all the time, every job, day in and day out.

Because to move to the next level you need to start asking for referrals from the client base you have built up so far.

This is one of the keys to great freelancing careers. No matter what skill you have, there are always clients out there who have friends and colleagues who want your stuff too. But they almost always never recommend you unless you ask them to.

So ask.

It’s not hard to do. It’s not rude or insensitive. Your clients know you need to eat, they will be happy to recommend you to other clients. However, the big thing here is quality. It obviously makes absolutely no sense to ask for a referral from a client who thinks your stuff is just ‘okay’. It has to be exceptional.

And that’s it

Those three steps are what you take to get your first few clients online as a freelancer. It is exactly what I did to get my first clients. I guarantee if you follow those three steps, you will be well on the way too.

As a bonus idea, check out Ryan’s cold email templates. It’s just more for your toolkit.

I’ll dig deeper into these client search steps in the future. I’ll also continue to cover how to keep clients too.

I do know that this stuff works. And if you’re serious about starting a career, you should do the same.

Why does customer churn happen (and what can I do about it)?

As a freelancer or small business owner, it can be very challenging to manage all the aspects of your business. And some of those aspects can be easy to miss too. We looked at customer churn in a previous post, and in this post I thought I would take the time to work out why churn happens. If you are concerned about churn (and I don’t believe that there are many people like us who aren’t), then take a look at the following areas where it can start to grow, and then become a problem. Then, work on ways to avoid the areas.

Money as the cause of churn

Yes, it’s often about the money. People may use your products and services for some time, and then realise that the company on the other side of town can give them the same thing, but cheaper.

There is really only one approach you can take with this. If you are able to provide value for your customer, they will find it harder to jump into churn. Even if the guy down the street is selling website copy for half the price you are, if you’re better, more responsive and careful in your work, churn can be avoided.

Money is a major factor in churn. And with the competitive marketplaces today, that’s understandable. But there is a reason why people still shop with a brand that is more costly than the rest. All you need to do is work out why you are worth what you say you are. The rest should fall into place. And you may reduce churn.

Bad product fit causing churn

You may have a very good sales process (as a freelancer) or team (as a small business), and that may result in lots of sales. But if the product or service is not a good fit for the customer, they won’t come back.

Good sales people qualify clients. Only when they know that their product or service will genuinely help that client do they start to sell. I once had an experience where I hired a ‘specialist’ sales team to find me leads. I ended up having a coffee with a ‘lead’ who explained to me that the sales team hadn’t let him speak during their conversation. He had felt intimidated. On top of that his business was going under and he had no need for content for his website.

The sales team had pummeled him with great selling (or at least very ‘firm’ selling). If they had closed on that phonecall, he would have spent some time as my client (perhaps), but would have gone into churn as soon as the first poorly-qualified service had been experienced.

Qualify who you are selling to. If they genuinely need your product, and they’re a good fit for it, sell it. If not, walk away, because they’ll churn away quicker than you can say Glengarry Glenn Ross.

The product isn’t working

Okay, selling your product is one thing, but it’s equally as important to ensure that what you sell is working in the way your clients want it to.

As a freelance graphic designer, for example, you may have to spend ten hours trying to get the exact right shade of yellow. But you’re putting in that time for a reason. Your client wants that shade, otherwise the product ‘doesn’t work’.

A freelance writer may have to produce ten high quality blog posts that help to market the services of a client. But unless that writer explains exactly what the client can expect, there could well be some disappointment. It’s not always easy to explain why blog posts don’t immediately make clients money, but it does need explaining.

If you design software or apps, carry out on boarding, so your clients get to know how to work with the product to meet their goals. Make instructions clear. Set up a communication channel so that they can contact you if they need to with any problems that occur after purchase. Include a chat feature on your website.

Basically, if your client discovers that what they have bought doesn’t work, they won’t come back/continue subscribing.

Churn due to poor customer support

Things do go wrong and problems occur. This is especially true if you’re offering a subscription service for example. As problems occur, customers expect full and efficient customer service.

The customer support you offer needs to be everything customers expect it to be. There should be humans (preferably trained) at the heart of it all, able to take questions and manage them in minutes.

Customers will leave if support is not there.

Churn due to your competitors

Your customers may look at your competitors and believe (rightly or wrongly) that they can give them better results, or a better product or service overall. While this may not be true, if they feel it is, this is as good enough a reason to enter churn as any other.

I dealt with the money thing earlier in the post, but one way to help your clients understand that your product or service is worth sticking with is to consistently focus on your USP (unique selling proposition).

What can you offer that those pesky competitors cannot? What one thing do you bring to the customer experience that no one else does? Putting money aside, what do you do that really helps your customers and clients?

Do you care about your customers, and show this through your marketing messages? Are you funnier than your competitors? Do you have the very best customer service known to man? There must be something that you can articulate, which shows that you are better than the next provider of your particular product or service.

Churn is manageable

Hopefully, you have learnt that, while churn is inevitable, it can be reduced and limited. Putting into place any of the ideas above should allow you to limit the number of clients that want to leave your care.

And that word, ‘care’, is important. Find ways to care about your clients more, even just 10% more, and you should find that churn is less of a beast than it is right now.

What is customer churn?

As your business grows and becomes bigger and better at what it does, there is one inevitability that is always lurking just around the corner.

You are going to lose customers.

No matter how hard you work or how amazing your product is, at some point people just won’t come back. They will go and buy from someone else.

While this is sad, and in some cases quite worrying, it is absolutely inevitable. No company, no matter how amazing, can avoid losing customers.

It’s what we refer to as ‘customer churn’. Customer churn happens when you lose customers as part of the natural process of running a business over time.

The difference between successful and unsuccessful companies is whether you allow the churn to get out of control.

A definition

Customer churn is best defined as the percentage of customers who stopped using your product or service during a particular time frame.

This means the number of customers you lost during the last financial quarter, as a percentage. Or the lost customers in 2018. Essentially, it’s a percentage figure that gives you an idea of the size of the chunk of customers you lost during a certain time period.

To work out your customer churn, simply divide the number of customers you lost in the time period (say a month) by the number of customers you had at the start of that time period.

Kind of like this, really (with thanks to Adrian Swinscoe)

I am hopeless at Maths, so I found this really handy churn rate calculator, which not only works out the churn, but also how much it costs your business.

So why do this?

It’s easy to dismiss losing a small percentage of income every now and then, but if you continually use a churn rate calculator, as a freelancer or small business, you will soon see how important it is to reduce churn.

I have talked about how important it is to hold onto customers (and that is, basically, what this blog is all about), and customer churn is a great and useful way to highlight the impact of not doing that. Reducing your churn rate is a really big part of your success.

If you have a high churn rate, attached to a significant loss in revenue every month, for example, you’re failing. It means that your work is not good enough to make people keep giving you money for it.

Seriously, that’s what it means.

If you’re a freelance writer and you land a great client that has plenty of work available, and you lose them within a few weeks, what does that tell you?

In addition to that, a high churn rate should be a strong and urgent warning sign for you. It means you have to improve what you do, possibly on a huge scale. People are simply becoming unhappy with your work.

Of course, you could be a freelancer or small business owner who just wants to ‘bag and run’ clients. One shot work, in other words. But is that really what you want? Is that healthy? What happens when your selling isn’t working out too well one month? It’s a good job your customer churn is low, right?

You get the picture.

Why customer satisfaction surveys are important

If a business is to stand out in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, it has to excel at customer happiness. This builds the foundations of customer retention, and as we all know, this makes running a business a whole lot easier.

A customer satisfaction survey is an effective way to create future customer happiness. The simple truth is that if you know what customers want, and what they don’t want, you have the ability to make more people happier when they buy from you.

A customer satisfaction survey is a doddle to arrange. Even the most basic customer relationship tools (like Mailchimp) have customer relationship survey options. And then you have your dedicated survey platforms (such as SurveyMonkey) that allow you to ask questions on a large scale.

And if you don’t have access to any of that, you can just create a spreadsheet and send out surveys individually.

But creating a customer satisfaction survey is vital for a number of reasons.

Customers are becoming less loyal

Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that there is much more choice these days, but customers are not necessarily going to stay with one provider or manufacturer time and time again. They can always go online and find a similar product or service that is cheaper or is delivered quicker.

If you have a survey, and you are sending it out to customers, you will get responses that give you clues (or clear instructions) as to how you can make your offering more attractive to them.

You can’t keep hold of them all, but some customers will let you know what it takes to keep them. And they will do it through a response to a customer satisfaction survey.

It feels nice

Again, in the huge and often impersonal online world, having contact with a company on a more human level makes a big difference.

A survey is one extra piece of customer-focused marketing. In fact, throw that slightly cynical last sentence to one side for a moment. A survey is one extra piece of human interaction online. And that one extra piece could mean a customer feeling more connected to your company.

And that means that they will be more likely to stay with you.

About that loyalty thing again

The Harvard Business Review undertook some research back in 2014 that showed that a subscription-based business (as in a membership site or club, or a magazine site) can see massive loyalty as long as customer satisfaction is there.


With thanks to HBR

A customer satisfaction survey measures that customer experience you see on the bottom of the table. If you can use a survey to monitor satisfaction, and then implement actions that are informed by your findings, you’re looking at loyalty.

It’s clear that customer happiness and great customer service bring about loyalty from customers. It’s also clear that acting upon what you discover through a customer satisfaction survey can help to build that happiness.

Even if you’re a freelancer, working for yourself, it takes no time at all to create a good customer satisfaction survey, and the benefits can last for years.

What are some Customer Retention Strategies I can use?

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.

With thanks to brandongaille.com

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.

On social

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.

Respond quickly

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.

Customer service on social media

person using black iPad

Customer service is actually very easy to do badly. Try ignoring your customers for a week and see how that one plays out. However, we have seen some excellent examples of high-quality customer service in recent times. These examples generally make life easier for customers.

Morton’s

This brand does a great steak, and they’re well known in the United States for doing just that in the very best way possible. However, they showed an almost supernatural level of delivery when a hungry fan of the steaks tweeted that he would love to have one when his plane touched down in Newark. The whole thing was actually meant as a joke. No company would actually bring a free steak to a fan when their plane landed, right?

Wrong, because Morton’s did. And the fact that it was also presented so well is only part of the amazing customer service story here. Morton’s also managed to give him some shrimp and bread, as well as everything else that makes a great steak so wonderful. The whole thing was done in less than three hours and delivered by a guy in a tuxedo. 

This is obviously a one-off (we don’t recommend you try it again, they probably will just laugh), but the fact that the community manager of Morton’s Twitter team saw the tweet and thought it would be a great idea to fulfill the fan’s wishes is something pretty awesome. And of course, on top of all of that, it also brought a ton of kudos on Twitter.

A Masterpiece Of Social Listening

Social listening is a big part of customer service and you should never forget that. Delta hotels saw a tweet from a guest who loved his room but hated the view. Unlike the previous entry on our list, the guy wasn’t asking for anything. He just wanted to explain how he felt about the view. He didn’t even tag the hotel.

Within one hour the hotel responded with a room that had a better view. On top of that, a handwritten card greeted the guest in his new room. All of this happened via Twitter. And it all happened because Delta had a team that knew the benefits of social listening.

Big And Clever

Xbox is huge. It has become a major part of the lives of many people, and one of the reasons why it makes so many people happy is that it is huge. So it could be excused for messing up on customer service now and then. 

However, it continues to show that it knows just how to do it right. A recent episode involved them managing an issue that a Twitter user had and then following up nine days later. This showed amazing levels of customer service, especially when you realise that Xbox handles hundreds of interactions a day. It has a team of nearly 30 Twitter workers though, so that kind of interaction kind of makes sense.

Nike

unpaired red Nike sneaker

Not the world’s smallest brand, we’re sure you’ll agree, but still pretty capable of delivering awesome customer service. 

A recent episode involved Nike taking a complaint from a customer who had made a genuine error but thought Nike was responsible for the issue. It was the customer’s fault basically, and the guys at Nike knew this. 

They still treated the customer with complete courtesy and respect. Even after they found out that their problem was actually nothing to do with them, they still tweeted out their best wishes to the customer.

That’s simply an example of treating the customer like royalty even if the problem is not one your brand created.

Jetblue

An airline of some years, Jetblue is not jaded. In fact, it has a strong reputation for great customer service on Twitter.

This was perhaps best exemplified when a customer had a dud TV on his flight so he couldn’t watch anything. Within half an hour, the ever-watchful team at Jetblue had secured credit for him against the cost of renting the service. It was incredibly responsive, and effective. On top of that, the thankful customer’s tweet was respectful and grateful. Just what customer service teams need.

Oh, and one more thing

All of this happened on Twitter. That’s because Twitter is becoming the best place to ask for and receive customer service. It’s quicker than pretty much anything else (save instant messaging) and it allows a strong customer service team to get in touch with people quickly. 

So if there are any lessons to learn here they involve listening (always) and being as helpful and proactive as possible. The examples here show that customer service can be done well on social, as long as your team is trained, alert and focused on what the customer wants above everything else.