How to Retain Customers and Build Loyalty
I'm a nice guy and am trying to feed my family, I'm sure my customers see that.
I hope for those of you reading this you already know the value of customers for life.
But let's answer some common questions we get.
Why is it so important to have satisfied customers?
Umm.. Duh. Ok, we're not trying to be condescending or make you feel silly if you've ever asked this question. Trust us, there are times in every industry where you're working with people that you feel like you can't seem to win. And some customers no matter how hard you work to please them will never be happy.
But if you've been in retail and service based industries you should know from a business development standpoint, it's far easier to keep an existing customer then find a new one. That's why customer retention and building engaging, value add loyalty programs is so important and worth the investment. That is the number one reason why you want to keep people coming back in through your doors. And, happy customers tell their friends. So it feeds the machine of extremely qualified leads.
How to keep customers coming back?
First thing, you need them walking in the door. So generating leads needs to be a big part of your business development plans. But the most basic and important way to keep your customer, regardless of the industry is with fantastic customer service. Pricing and being competitive does play into it. However, often customers will go back to the place that treated them the best, despite those variations.
It takes a great deal of care to maintain customer satisfaction, and at times, some humility on the side of the business. "The customer is always right" is still true today as it's ever been. We understand just how hard living up to that expectation can be, but if you do your best to listen and hear them out, often you can transform what may seem to be a negative experience into a very positive customer experience. We see it every day especially in our service based industries; in particular our mechanical shop client.
So, don't go spending a bunch of money on a retention or loyalty program without refining your face-to-face customer experience.
If we were to break it down customer retention strategies into steps, this is what it would look like:
- Assess your customer experience, make sure that your internal processes are meeting your level of quality and exceptions
- Find out what customers think about their experience. Don't assume they are satisfied, get feedback directly from them on if you are meeting their expectations. You may be surprised that your expectations and theirs may be quite different. Make sure you give them what they want, not what YOU think they want. This can be done with satisfaction surveys, third party ratings, your own ratings and reviews, as well as just simply talking to them and getting their feedback. Having a nice easy conversation with them often gives you the most insight.
- Build relationships - get to know them if they're coming often. Take the time to remember who they are and what they like. This can be where a good CRM system can help you with managing that information.
- Stay in touch with them, try and bring them offers that matter to them. Again, don't offer them what you think they want. Try and get the intelligence of what they really like. This can be a little bit of trial and error. Some of the biggest mistakes business owners make are they offer what is easier and cheapest for them to give away. Customers see right through that.
- Give the feeling of exclusivity, appreciation and find a way to make them feel special. This doesn't mean you have to go for drinks with them all the time or wine and dine them, which in the right industry works. But a well thought out loyalty program can help build these feelings.
- Give them incentives for helping you. For example, you want them to tell their friends about you, find a way to make them want to pass your name along. Referrals are the MOST valuable leads you can get. But they have already got preset expectations, so don't screw it up.
What is a CRM?
It means Customer Relations Management. The simple definition is really what is your strategy to managing your customers. And it normally involves how to gather data to make it easier to know your customers, keep them engaged and feeling special.
Some companies chose to use a software system to manage this kind of information. Some systems are very costly. But there is plenty of solutions out there for you. Depending on your business, there may be something tailored directly for your industry's needs or there may not be.
But remember CRM is more than just the system in place. If you don't have processes in place that work with the data you have gathered you really are wasting opportunities.
What is a Loyalty Program? Is that different than a CRM?
Yes and No. If put together properly and with the ability to gather detailed information about your customers a loyalty program can often act as your CRM. But most people choose to have a separate CRM and then develop a loyalty program. Truthfully, bare minimum they should work together.
A loyalty program is often defined as how you reward your customers for coming back to you vs your competition. There are many different kinds of loyalty programs, from huge brands like "Air Miles" to mom and pop shop's using discount cards. You don't have to have an overly complicated system to have an effective loyalty program. But it does need to offer something that your customera wants and provides value to them.
There are so many loyalty programs out there, it's becoming almost expected for a business to give something back to their customers. So don't brush it off as being a tactic only for the big national or international players. We can help you put together a program that will work well for you and your customers.
Some effective tools for building a customer loyalty program or working to retain customers are:
- Newsletter subscriptions and email marketing
- Direct Mail
- Customer only offer based promotions
- Personalization & customer segmenting
- Valuable content creation for blogs and other article based networks - this can be segmented content for your audience
- Setting up service reminder systems
- Using Surveys and Review gathering tools and methods
- Tracking where new customers are coming from and developing mechanisms for rewarding referrals
- Creating contests for customer groups
- Developing a full reward based loyalty program with ongoing communication to your members.
- Developing tactics that engage conversations between you and your customers.
Get in Touch With Us About How to Build Life Long Customers
We love showing you what we can do and what we've done for other companies. Since everything is strategy based and tailored to your business and it's unique needs - best thing to do is talk to us directly.