We all know the old adage:
“It costs more to get new business than it does to keep the customers
you have.” Makes sense and sounds easy, right? However, in the real world small business owners
are often so consumed with running their businesses, they don’t focus enough on
customer retention until it is too late.
Loyal customer relationships are built over time and require
a significant commitment of time and resources.
The good news is – you don’t have to spend a fortune to be
successful. And the reward for your
efforts is priceless.
Here are a few customer retention ideas to help you design a
strategy that works well for your business.
Get to Know Your Customers as People. Customers
are more than an entry in your contact management system. Take a few minutes to learn more about them
as individuals. Ask about their
interests outside of business. Without
getting too personal, learn about their families. Make a note of birthdays. Identify areas of common interest so you can
build rapport. Remember, people like
doing business with friends – people they feel they know and can trust.
Treat Customers Like VIPs. There
are myriad ways to make a customer feel special. Consider featuring a customer’s business on
your web site or in your company’s e-newsletter. Everyone loves their 15 minutes of fame.
Provide a little something extra for no cost. For example, a hair salon might give a good
customer some free product samples. A
service business could provide a customer loyalty discount. Or a bakery shop owner would get rave reviews
for including a couple of extra cookies.
Little things go a long way in making customers happy.
Keep in Touch. Keep the lines of communication open between
you and your customer so your brand is always top-of-mind. E-newsletters are an excellent way of
communicating with customers. Even if
the customer doesn’t read all the content, you are keeping your name in front
of them. Social media is another
communication tool small businesses should utilize to stay connected with their
And don’t be shy about picking up
the phone and calling customers just to say hello. With all the electronic messaging tools we
have at our fingertips today, many of us have lost the art of plain old
conversation. Select a few customers
each week or month and call them just to say hello and see how they are
Customer Advisory Councils. Invite current customers, potential
customers, even customers you’ve lost, to be part of a customer advisory
council. Host a meeting and ask the
group for feedback about your business, products and services. This is not a dog and pony show for you. It is a time to listen and learn about
customer perceptions, likes and dislikes.
Make it Easy to Complain. Most
customers won’t take the time to complain, they’ll just take their business
somewhere else and you’ll never know what happened. So you should make it easy for customers to
let you know when they are unhappy because that gives you an opportunity to fix
the problem and salvage the relationship.
In fact, a customer whose complaint is successfully resolved often turns
out to be one of your most loyal fans.
Measure satisfaction. It is one
thing to talk about customer service – it’s
another to be able to truly quantify customer satisfaction levels. Use survey tools such as the one offered by
Constant Contact to measure customer satisfaction. Set benchmarks for your business and
constantly strive to enhance your results.
Share the results with your customer base. Show them their satisfaction is serious