Did you know that it can cost more to acquire NEW customers than to hold onto the ones you’ve got? Yes, customer retention is key for every business.
But wait! That doesn’t mean you should throw out your salespeople and only hire good account managers. The best outcome for any business is to keep bringing in new clients as well as holding on tight to the ones you’ve got. That’s how we grow isn’t it?
Selling is exciting, especially when a deal is secured. But it’s getting that balance right – if all we do is spend time selling and promoting ourselves to potential new customers, who is looking after the ones that are already signed up?
Just because they ‘bought’ from you doesn’t mean you stop providing them with a service. You have to continue meeting their needs. And while the reasoning behind this is simple enough to understand, it is a practice that many businesses fail to address.
So what can you do to make sure the customers you already have feel supported, important and like they are the only one you have? Here are six tips on how to do customer retention better.
1. Don’t just take their money and run!
It can be easy to think that once the client has paid in full for your service or product that the deal is done – but in fact, it is your performance straight after the sale that will cement the customer’s perception of you and your business.
So ensure that you don’t disappear of the radar, and that there is someone in the company who will be following up with them at regular intervals to check if everything is going okay – particularly in those early stages.
Even better – set up a communication process that has a set of ‘touch points’ to ensure all of your clients are hearing from you consistently, even if it is just taking the time to say hello, without trying to sell them something.
2. Keep them informed if something happens that may effect them
You know when something goes wrong with your service and the first thing you think is ‘uh-oh, I hope such-and-such doesn’t find out about this’. Well isn’t it worse for them to find out via another source and not direct from you?
Making that initial contact to say your service or product isn’t working right now is intimidating. However, if you can apologise for the inconvenience and give them an estimated time of resolving the issue, they will appreciate your honesty. Moreover, they will know they can trust you when things go wrong and, hopefully, won't be as angry as they'd be if they heard it from someone else.
Being upfront about a problem is definitely more appealing than trying to hide it.
3. Make your clients feel special – delight them
Too many service providers lock clients into long term contracts and then never give them a second glance when it comes to providing them with something a little bit extra special, to delight them.
It often seems companies are saving those things for new sign-ups, people who haven’t even provided them with any kind of loyalty. And you know how it feels to current customers? Like a kick in the pants. And you know what will happen when it comes to their contract ending? You can bet they will be looking to your competitors for a better offer.
So give them a reason to never want to leave – whether it’s invitations to special events, regular expert tips to help them and their business, a gift basket for their birthday - small gestures go a long way when it comes to customer retention as there really is nothing like feeling you are part of an exclusive club that has some great bonus features on offer.
4. Listen to their feedback and take onboard their criticisms
You might have the best service or product on offer in the market, but it doesn’t mean you’re perfect. And while that may be a hard pill to swallow, you do need to always be thinking about areas of improvement, and your clients are probably the best people to ask!
Prompt them for feedback, ask what you could do better, find out if there is anything they don’t think you excel at – and then take it all on board. You never know, they might also come up with a solution for you.
The key is to not be offended by it, as it’s valuable information you can use to make positive changes your service or product offering, all while watching out for customers who might be feeling very underwhelmed and are at risk of leaving.
Whether it is regular anonymous surveys, face-to-face meetings or feedback forms available via email – don’t feel threatened by what you hear as the alternative is a customer leaving without saying anything at all.
5. Keep an eye on your MARCs (Most At Risk Customers)
Every company has a list of customers that are most at risk of disappearing, and there needs to be a process in place to identify what qualifies a MARC and the steps to take in order to satisfy them enough to stay.
This is a critical stage of account management, and every business should have it’s own set of guidelines for dealing with a MARC before they fall off the customer list for good. This is when listening to their feedback, as mentioned above, is critical.
6. Set them free – but not without a reason why
No matter how awesome your service is, and how well you communicate, manage and look after clients, sometimes you have to just go your separate ways with a customer. But before you set them free – do your best to find out why.
Understanding why will probably not help you with bringing back that one client, but it will help you to build up a reliable source of information about the reasons why customers choose to leave – and perhaps a pattern will emerge? If 10 clients leave because you don’t offer a particular service that a competitor does, then maybe it is time to start providing that service or finding a business partner who can.