Small Business Services

3 Ways to Retain Your Best Customers

You probably do it yourself: order periodically from the same suppliers. They’re a known quantity. You like their products. The prices are competitive. And you get your orders within the time promised.

The smartest of these vendors stay in touch with you. They know that it costs way less money to keep an existing customer than to cultivate a new one. They may:

  • Give you advance notice of sales and other promotions,
  • Offer special discounts for preferred customers, and/or
  • Give you an instant reduction on your next order as soon as you complete another.

These can all be effective ways of encouraging multiple sales, and they might work for you. There are other ways, though, to increase the chances that at least most of your existing customer base will keep coming back. Here are three.

 

Think long-term.

Stop “making sales” and start acknowledging each sale as another positive event in your ongoing relationship with your customer. If you start thinking this way, you’ll be able to come up with your own list of ways to retain customers pretty quickly.

Surprise your customers occasionally.

You know how this kind of thing goes. Upgrade the requested shipping level once in awhile. Send a handwritten note thanking repeat customers for their loyalty. Throw in a freebie. Offer an extra item in their next order (depending on the cost of your products) for completing a feedback form – one that requires complete sentences, not just multiple-choice box-checking. You may discover that making simple, cost-effective changes can have great impact on your customers.

Double or triple your efforts to provide exceptional customer service.

The Harvard Business Review did a study on customer service that came to a surprising conclusion: “…delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does.”

This doesn’t mean that you should stop surprising your customers with unexpected extras occasionally. But those efforts will be meaningless if you aren’t meeting their most basic expectations. This can mean:

  • Reducing or eliminating wait times. Is your website built, optimized, and maintained in ways that will accommodate fast, problem-free – even frustration-free – ordering? Is your call center staffed adequately enough that hold times are absolutely minimal?
  • Ensuring that your inventory systems are 100 percent accurate, and that orders aren’t taken for merchandise that can’t be delivered immediately.
  • Using shipping boxes or envelopes that are new and neatly-labeled, and that “fit” the products they contain as closely as possible. Most people have gotten a little thing in a big box and wondered how else the company is squandering money.
  • Making returns and exchanges as easy as your websites makes them sound.

Make sure that everyone in your company understands that customers are gold. You never know which new order is going to create a long-time fan, nor how one negative experience can turn a loyal customer sour.

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