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How to Retain your Best Customers

Small or medium business owners and marketers are well aware of the importance of getting customers that stick around for a lifetime. Savvy marketers understand the fact that the cost of acquiring a new customer is as much as 7-10 times the cost of retaining an existing customer. Loyalty means a customer is willing to do business with you even when a cheaper, faster (maybe better) alternative is available – which makes it highly dependent on trust. Here are few steps on how to retain loyal customers:

 how to retain loyal customers

1.       The first steps are the most important

Right from the awareness stage when a prospect comes to know about your company’s existence, till the time of closing the deal, it’s important to notice how the various touch points that a prospect comes across (such as the channel of acquisition, message, promotion media, sales reps etc.) shape their attitude in the long run and affect their attitude towards your company. Make sure that the promises made through the initial brand communication such as new, free, automatically, are backed up with action later on.

2.       Never over-promise, only to under-deliver

In other words, do nothing less than delivering fully on your commitments, which are realistic and fall under your area of expertise. Nothing is more detrimental to the prospect of a customer becoming loyal to your company than a promise of service gone wrong in execution. How about going one step further by exceedingcustomer expectations instead of merely meeting them?

3. Create an Outstanding Customer Service Team

Sometimes, a courteous, dedicated and attentive employee is what can make the difference in getting a customer to go from a ‘maybe’ customer into one that converts and returns. Also keep a check on the costs of servicing your customers. Always look for quality over quantity while framing your recruitment strategy for hiring customer service reps. The best form of customer service is one where the customers have much of the required information at their disposal in the form of detailed FAQs and guides and occasionally need some support. If you have an inbound call center, make sure that any issues are resolved in the first call itself.

4.       Listen!

For customers, communicating with most companies to have their grievances resolved is like facing a brick wall. Instead, what world-class companies do is that they create an open communication channel for quicker escalations. They have outlined the steps and people to be approached in getting resolution of complaints and in some cases, even the top management is accessible for grievance resolution. Social media has greatly helped in closing this gap and giving customers access to multiple channels in the form of social networks such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter to reach out to a company. Such mechanisms can help convert even disgruntled customers into loyal ones.

5.       Use ‘Surprise’

It’s said that – “it’s the little things that matter the most.” Surprise your customers with the little things that they could use. Instead of using small rewards as a way for service recovery, it makes much more sense to use them when they aren’t expecting anything. It’s important that rather than offering just about anything, target their pain points directly and offer something that addresses the issues they’re facing.

6.       Anticipate & Act

Learn as much as possible about your existing customers using social media, newsletter, questionnaires etc. and know about the challenges that they’re facing. Focus new solutions around these bottlenecks and be prepared to deliver such solutions before any tangible need arises! You are not only cross-selling them, but making their lives better and doing more than what they would normally expect.

7.       Stand for Something

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Can having a strong opinion on something have any bearing on customer loyalty? Well, if you base your company’s philosophy around a belief, then you are bound to earn allegiance from some customers who agree and appreciate this belief.  A study of by the Corporate Executive Board on a sample of 7000 loyal customers found out that 64 percent of them cite “shared values” as the main reason for being loyal to a particular brand.
Although there exists a clear demarcation between repeat business and loyal customers. While repeat business means just that – business, loyalty implies a long-term commitment that does not necessarily assure a constant flow of revenue, but also leads to more referrals and brand evangelism, apart from the occasional business that comes in.
And now it’s your turn. Do share with us the best practices that have worked for your business to create a customer for a lifetime.

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