Keeping your Customers Happy - Five Retention Tips
By Curt Hill and Erik Alberts on June 15, 2015
Around the world, businesses of all sizes are focused on customer retention, though not all of them go about it in the right way. Too often, businesses become entrenched in internal plans and strategies, and lose sight of what their clients actually want and expect from them. Buyers have more choice than ever today, and businesses are vying for competition in an increasingly crowded market. With so many rivals, businesses need to innovate and tailor their services to offer maximum satisfaction – a customer treated well is always more likely to return than an unhappy one, no matter how much they like a particular product or service. In today’s world, chances are they will always be able to find what they want somewhere else.
As Curtis Hill and Erik Alberts say in their book Customer Service DNA: Building Blocks That Drive Customer Loyalty, “providing excellent service, which is both value-added and relevant to customers, is the life-blood of an organization.” Even if a customer is unable to find exactly what they need from you, if they leave feeling respected and satisfied with the treatment they received, they are more likely to remember you in the future should they ever need the products/services you provide. According to Harvard Business School, businesses that increase their customer retention rates by five percent see an increase in their profits of between 25 to 95 percent.
With this in mind, let's take a look at five ways to keep your customers happy and bring them back again and again.
Treat Your Customers Like People
Sounds obvious, doesn't it? The truth is, too many businesses treat all customers as one, and make no effort to communicate on a personal level. If a customer has a problem but can see no way to speak with a human at a company – no phone numbers, no email address, no 'live chat' function – they will feel cut-off, as if they are of no value to the business (which is absolutely not the case – without customers, the business simply would not exist).
Make sure you give customers all the information they need to get in touch with you. Have staff address clients by name in all communication. Make sure every issue is dealt with quickly and taken seriously. That level of attention will demonstrate that you value your customer, and make them feel as if they really matter to your business.
In Customer Service DNA, Curtis Hill and Erik Alberts discuss the importance of keeping business rules and processes flexible – “if something must flex, flex the rule.” In other words, don’t make your customer “flex” for you. Hill and Alberts argue that while the customer may not always be right, businesses should try to operate outside of their usual practice to find a solution. This may mean bending a few rules to ensure the client is happy and likely to return. Customers will remember that you made an exception for them; they will also remember if you were unwilling to make a slight tweak or adjustment to the rules that ultimately wouldn't have caused real problems or inconvenience to your employees.
Assess your Customer Service Standards Regularly
On a regular basis – perhaps every fortnight, or once per month – evaluate your customer interaction records from the preceding weeks. How many complaints did you receive, were they resolved and how quickly? Have you received any emails, letters, or phone calls from satisfied customers, thanking a particular member of staff for their high-quality service? Identify the strengths of your staff and/or business, and encourage more employees to build on these in their work. Also identify weaknesses, and devise ways to correct, avoid, balance out or work around those in future.
Keep an Eye on your Competitors
Stay aware of your competitors' customer service. Are they going above and beyond to keep clients happy? If so, which methods are they incorporating? Follow them on social media, and study their interactions with users – are they doing anything you're not? Be willing to take inspiration from good customer-retention tactics wherever possible.
Try Loyalty Schemes
Loyalty schemes have become a popular way for brands such as Starbucks to boost customer retention. Providing clients with a stamp-card – which allows them to build their way towards a free product or service after paying for numerous others – gives them a tangible incentive to make future purchases. There's no way to lose here: if a customer is unlikely to return to a business more than once, the worst they will do is refuse to participate in the loyalty program; if a customer is likely to return again and again, the eventual free drink (or other product or service) is a small reward for their consistent business, and a demonstration of your appreciation of their loyalty.