Business101: Tips to retain customers
JOHANNESBURG - Building a successful business often seen owners turning to strategies that can add new customer acquisition to increase sales and profits.
However, such efforts should never reduce the important task of keeping current customers that businesses have already spent money acquiring.
The cost of retaining existing customers is lower than acquiring new ones, and customer loyalty can have a valuable impact on the bottom line – something that is especially needed in a slow-growth economy.
Even if a business offering is of good value, retaining customers requires on-going effort to keep engagement levels high and remain relevant.
Business are there to make every first-time buyer a returning, loyal customer who would recommend the business to others. To gain a competitive advantage and gamify the customer experience, consider introducing a loyalty programme or special discounts to your most profitable customers from time to time.
Make sure to follow up post-transaction, whether through a company newsletter, phone call, or SMS. Personalise communication through collecting as much data about customers upfront - such as their date of birth, so you can send them messages such as a ‘happy birthday’ note each year. Communicate promotions you might be offering and say ‘thank you’ when customers make a purchase.
Ensure your employees become your business’ brand ambassadors. It is said that an engaged and happy staff base translates into a better customer experience. It also makes sure your employees are inspired by where they work. Connecting the company’s brand story from the inside-out will make the experience feel more authentic and compelling, thus helping to create more returning customers.
To find out what people want is to ask them to provide feedback and listen carefully to every complaint or praise. Make use of customer forums and chat-bots on the company website. If you are losing customers, try to understand the reason why. Make a habit to interact with customers face-to-face to really get to know them. Ask questions, respond to what they want and go beyond the expected.
Following on from the above point, constantly look to improve on the customer experience; for example, by making it easier to pay and quicker to find what they need, when they need it. Discover what emotions your business evokes and continue to evolve your offerings with your customers’ progress. Ask yourself: ‘what’s the next step, and how else can my business help them?’
Focus on building up relationships in all transactions rather than pushing for the sale. It’s important that the customer feels cared for and important. Speak in a language they understand and treat them like a new friend. When issues arise, be quick to resolve them, and turn difficult situations into an opportunity to build trust.
Ben Biermann is the managing director at Business Partners Limited.