Your chances of selling to a new customer are 5-20% as compared to the chances for regular customers which are 60-70%. That’s a pretty big difference which is why customer retention should be a bigger priority than expanding your customer base.
Not only is it easier to sell to your existing customers, but new customers also take up a lot of time, resources and most importantly, money.
Statistics also show that 82% of Americans stop using a brand due to poor customer service.
With tools like social media at their disposal, customers now have more awareness about the availability and quality of products as well as the power to speak negatively about brands who do not offer satisfactory products and services.
Due to all these reasons, your overall customer experience should be top notch in order to improve and maintain customer retention.
Here are a number of strategies that you can implement in order to make sure your customers make repeat purchases:
#1. Create a wholesome experience for Customer Retention
In my years in the industry, this has been by far one of the most effective techniques for retaining customers.
It can include a lot of changes for some businesses, but once your employees get the hang of it, you’ll really start to see a difference.
Let’s take the example of two dental clinics.
One has good equipment with an efficient appointment process and satisfactory dental work.
On the other hand, the other clinic has this amazing vibe to it.
You walk in and the dental assistant smiles. He/she sees that you’re a regular customer, greets you by name and asks how you’re doing while pulling up your record.
Then, you’re offered tea or coffee while you wait for your turn. There’s free WiFi which keeps you occupied for a while.
The dental procedure is the same at both clinics, but the way that employees are trained to make customers feel special is what makes all the difference.
The outlook of your clinic, a nice scent when customers walk in and anything else that involves going out of the way to make customers feel special goes a long way.
You could be charging premium prices for this experience and most customers would be willing to pay for it.
Charging the same as other clinics while offering this added experience will improve customer retention even further.
Another thing you can do to provide a better experience to customers is by offering convenience.
This could range from minute to details to newer equipment that leads to faster procedures.
Taking the same example, a clinic that sends out text message reminders is much more convenient than one that calls.
Patients could miss the call because they are busy or you could simply catch them at a bad time, leading to annoyance.
Calls are also more expensive than texts; thus, increasing your costs.
Similarly, saving patient records on an online platform or spreadsheet is much more convenient than handwritten diaries.
Believe it or not, some clinics still use the latter to track appointments.
It takes longer and can be a nuisance if you have a busy day and patients have to wait while you look their name up.
Creating convenience that saves you even minutes can make all the difference.
#2. Always ask for feedback
Communication is the key to a good customer retention.
In my entire learning of the business industry, whether a course discussed employee relationships, customer relationships or other internal and external stakeholders, two-way communication was the key to a successful relationship.
Feedback is a crucial part of customer relationships because you may be doing everything perfectly on your part, but some customers may offer a different perspective.
Asking for feedback is cost-effective, takes very little time and is guaranteed to work if you implement the changes your customers ask for.
There are a number of channels you can use to collect feedback:
- Online forms (website)
- In person (Store visits)
- Social media
- Phone calls
Before you consider any of these, keep in mind that certain platforms are best for different situations.
Even though 47% of businesses still rely on call monitoring for feedback, calls are becoming outdated and there has been a sharp rise in social media feedback:
You need to stay updated with trends and use channels that your customers are most active on.
SMS is generally a platform that you can use for all kinds of customers because it’s built into all phones so it’s accessible to the small segment of people who don’t own smartphones as well.
Plus, you can use it for short or long feedback:
In this case (short feedback), all customers have to do is type in a number and hit send.
It’s very less effort on their part so you’re likely get a good response.
In the case of a negative review, say under 5, you can then call those customers or ask them to fill a detailed online survey so that you can better understand their problem and work towards fixing it.
This is longer feedback that gives you deeper insight into problems or unsatisfactory aspects that your customers may be facing.
Shorter feedback, on the other hand, is great for gathering quantitative data on how many customers are satisfied and unsatisfied.
Moving on to social media, you need to have an active social media presence on 2-3 platforms that your target audience uses.
Make sure there is a social media manager available 24/7 or at least during peak hours to listen to customer queries and respond promptly.
This is especially important for small-scale businesses that operate entirely through social media.
To make your job easier, you can invest in automation tools which I will be discussing later.
#3. Reward your loyal customers
Think of customer retention as a personal relationship that you are committed to, and part of making it work is appreciation of the other person.
In the case of customers, you can set up a loyalty program.
Normally, this is the point system where users have cards made and points are added each time they make a purchase which can later be used to claim various rewards.
If you are using this technique, make sure you shift to digital loyalty cards – either through SMS, a phone app or your brand’s official website:
Carrying around physical cards in wallets has become a nuisance for customers.
I, for one, always forgot my loyalty cards even if I went to a store I visited frequently and ever since the introduction of digital cards, my life has become much easier.
Again, this is all part of creating convenience for your customers. If they keep forgetting their loyalty cards at home, then it’s of no use to them.
As a business, you need to ensure that you make the process easier for them in every way possible.
However, there’s one important thing to take into account.
Businesses are coming up with the most innovative loyalty programs to retain customers and you need to offer those as well if you want your customers to stay and gain an edge over competitors.
In my previous guides, I’ve discussed the loyalty systems of some of the biggest brands in different industries – including Starbucks, Amazon Prime and many others.
Today, I’ll be discussing the cosmetic brand Tarte’s loyalty program because it’s idea is unique and different from all other brands out there:
Apart from these regular points, the brand recently launched a brilliant idea.
Customers who uploaded selfies with Tarte products or created makeup looks using the brand’s products got rewarded with different benefits such as free sample products, birthday discounts and credit that could be used to purchase products as an alternative to cash.
Not only was this a great system for customers who really loved the brand but it also curated user-generated content for the brand’s social media pages, making it a win-win situation for both parties.
Thus, if you come up with an innovative idea for a loyalty program, you could end up not only retaining customers but also benefiting your own business by saving on costs.
#4. Make use of technology & automation
As I mentioned before, technology and automation can make your life much easier.
It saves you the cost of hiring employees whose jobs can be done by bots and machines and it adds convenience to the business process.
So for example, you get more than 1000 comments under each post on social media.
Customers these days expect businesses to be completely involved by offering individual attention, but replying to each comment can be a big task.
Instead of manually having someone type out all the replies to comments, you can invest in digital marketing tools like HubSpot that allow you to post pre-written messages.
Thus, instead of hiring 10 people for the same job, you could equip 2-3 employees with access to automated tools through which they can respond to comments much faster.
Plus, the best part about this is that you can tackle negative comments and rectify the situation for customers who have had a bad experience with your brand:
Notice how Chuck E Cheese has tweaked the same message to make it seem more personalised and offer individual attention to each customer.
By replying promptly, they will have much higher chances of fixing the cause behind unsatisfactory customer service.
Similarly, you will also have more control over fake rumours that could harm your brand’s reputation.
See how Emirates shut down a rumour in an extremely polite but firm manner by denying news promptly before it spreads:
Check out the best tools for digital marketing that can help you manage your business more efficiently on social media as well as other platforms.
#5. Set up a referral program
All of these strategies that I discussed are great for customer retention, but you can take it one step forward and turn your loyal customers into brand advocates.
To get to this step, you need to create very strong customer loyalty because only customers who really love your brand will tell others to try it out.
Plus, it’s always a great idea to offer them an incentive to increase referrals.
But what exactly is a referral program?
When your loyal customers refer your brand to their friends or family, they are rewarded with discounts, free samples, access to exclusive memberships and other benefits similar to loyalty programs.
However, the one major difference between referral programs and loyalty programs is that the former will attract new customers towards your brand with the added benefit that you don’t have to invest in marketing efforts to get them to make a purchase!
Uber’s referral program is one of the simplest yet popular programs out there which has helped the brand expand its user base rapidly.
Customers who refer others get free credits as well as the person they refer:
These credits can later be used to get a discount on trips:
If you want your brand to stand out from competitors, come up with a unique idea for a referral program – one that is tempting enough for customers to take advantage of without leaving you high and dry.
So that sums up everything you need to know about customer retention, how important it is for your business and the best strategies and tactics that you can implement to retain your customer base.
The important thing to remember is that sometimes you may have to choose between customer loyalty and expanding your customer base, and if faced with that decision, it’s almost always best to go with your existing customers.
This is a common occurrence with small-scale businesses working at full capacity.
If they expand, they have to commercialise and hire more employees to deal with added customers.
If not managed properly, it can result in losing loyal customers who require extra attention.
This proves the importance of retaining customers and how managing your customer base effectively is a big part of that.