Many business owners spend the vast majority of their marketing budgets on finding new customers, and it’s easy to see why. More clients mean a broader customer base and bigger business. But, while expanding your base is vital, you should never take your eyes off the ball when it comes to retaining and engaging your current customers.
The simple facts are that loyal customers are way more valuable than new clients. They spend more money on your products and services and visit you more often. They also benefit your business by providing the invaluable word of mouth advertising, by speaking to their friends and family about their experiences with you.
In short, if you are looking for ways to improve your bottom line, putting more focus on current customers rather than finding new ones will often make more financial sense. Here are some ideas on how you can go about retaining good clients and encouraging better levels of customer loyalty.
Be a human
It’s all too easy in this day and age to put all your focus towards online marketing and social media. It’s cheap, easy, and many business owners prefer these straightforward lines of communication. But the result of all this electronic interaction is that many consumers are begging for proper, human interaction. Make sure that you offer telephone access, and have well-trained customer service operatives in place to take calls and please your clients. Establishing an authentic human voice can often make your company stand out from the rest, and it will encourage your clients to keep doing business with you.
Which store do you prefer shopping in? The one that when you enter the staff come and say ‘hi’, or the one where you walk around for an hour without so much as a glance? Friendliness and a welcoming attitude costs nothing and boosts your coffers by a significant amount. Studies have shown – on many occasions – that a store where staff are friendly, smiling, and welcoming will always outperform those where everyone is po-faced. Make sure your employees are always bright and cheerful when dealing with customers, whether online or in person. It can make an enormous difference, and clients will be happy to come back and visit your business many times again in the future.
Be the best
Of course, the best way to bring people into your business is by being the best in your field. You will need to have a deep knowledge of your industry, and be able to discuss it in person and online. Grow your industry authority by learning everything you can, and spreading that knowledge to your employees. Start to create articles for industry-leading blogs and magazines, and if you have any contacts in the media, call them. Even an interview in the local paper can underline your credential to your current crop of customers, and bring them back to you again and again.
Offer loyalty programs
Of course, there is a good reason why many of the biggest retail businesses offer loyalty programs – it’s because they work. Loyalty cards or plans encourage people to come and visit you, whether it’s because they want to benefit from a points system or enjoy exclusive discounts. Loyalty programs also give you a chance to collect vital data on your customer’s shopping habits. In turn, this enables you to tailor your special offers to each client and encourages them to come back and even become brand ambassadors.
Offer a range of payment options
Consumers these days are used to choice, not just in payment methods such as card, cash, or mobile, but also a range of payment structures. It’s especially true for high-ticket items, which cost a lot of money and may put some people off from making a purchase. If you can offer customers something like a payment plan for such items – over 3 or 6 months, for example, – you will find your customer base grows by a significant amount. And, your clients will know buy more stuff, as well as being happier with your service, which leads to a far higher rate of referrals.
Modify your sales process
As sales and customer service experts like Nate Holzapfel will tell you, different people respond to different sales techniques. There is no one size fits all method, and you run the risk of losing customers by using the wrong techniques. Make sure that you are training your sales staff to adapt their pitches as and when they need to. Teach them to use the words each customer loves to hear, and focus on reducing pain points and pointing out benefits. Savvy salespeople will reframe their sales pitches while on the go, and if you want to encourage people to come back through your doors, your customers have to enjoy your sales process.
Don’t always chase the big sales
Let’s say you are a retailer who is with a customer looking to make a big purchase. You are convinced they are interested, and spend the next 40 minutes with them, servicing their every need. Meanwhile, however, a dozen or so other customers come in wanting to make a small purchase, but no one is around to serve them. They all leave without paying, and won’t be back in a hurry. Meanwhile, your last hour’s sales are relying 100 percent on a single person. What if they decide not to buy after all? If you want people to come back to your business time and time again, make sure that you see every sale as important, not just the big ones. While it might not seem so right now, all those little purchase add up to a significant amount over a year’s takings.
Don’t always sell
Even your loyalist customer will get a little cheesed off with you if they are always receiving sales pitches through the post or via email. And the result is that they will unsubscribe, chuck your leaflets into the trash, and never visit your store again. So, don’t make everything appear as if you are selling, Send them regular email newsletters by all means, but give them helpful advice and information instead of a rundown of your top five best-selling products. Bear in mind that even when a customer comes to your business in person, it’s not always because they want to buy something. Sometimes they might just be seeking advice, or asking your opinion about a relevant product or service to your business.
Focus your employees
The chances are that your employees really don’t give a fig about your customers. They care about keeping their jobs, of course, so will do what is required – but they also need pushing to excel. Make sure they know your expectations need them to go above and beyond the norm and consider using mystery shopping services to test them out on a regular basis. Not only will it encourage your staff to give first-class customer service every time, but it will also make their jobs more rewarding. Excellent customer service needs in-depth product knowledge, training, and dedication – all of which will help your employees achieve greater job satisfaction.
Surprise your customers
There will be many rival businesses out there that provide excellent customer service to their clients. But you will stand out if you always encourage excellence, and go that extra yard to ensure your customers leave your business amazed and surprised at the service they have received. Give them in-depth answers to their questions. Offer advice on complementary products or services to those that you sell. Even something simple like giving them directions to a store that sells a product you don’t can help. It’s the little things that can make a difference, and if you can excel in the small stuff, you will find your customers are more loyal to your business than ever before.
Anticipate customer’s needs
The vast majority of clients that come to your business will think they already know what they need. Your job is to anticipate that need, and give them a reason to buy it – as well as pointing out alternatives that might suit their position a little better. Be aware that this will sometimes mean you offer a cheaper product, or maybe pass on providing a service at all. But, you can guarantee that because of your help and assistance, the customer will look favorably on your actions, and will be back again in the near future – with more money to spend.
Create a customer experience
Finally, think about your ideal client, and design their perfect experience. What do they look for when they first set foot in your business? Who do they want to talk to? What questions do they ask, and how much money do they spend? Knowing these vital pieces of information will enable you to work out an ideal customer experience plan, helping you attract – and keep – more clients that come through your doors.
Customer retention is vital for your business in many different ways. While there is much on this list, it is essential that you start focusing on the basics, as improving client loyalty will improve your bottom line and lay the foundations for a successful, long-lasting business.