Maintaining regular customers is more cost-effective than going after new ones. The 80/20 rule maintains that 80 percent of your business will come from repeat customers, so keeping those familiar faces coming back should be high on the list of priorities for any business.
But many businesses might take regular customers for granted and may not realize if some of those familiar faces aren’t frequenting their establishments as often. These tips will help you keep them coming back.
- Get feedback: Customers come to your business because you meet a need or solve a problem for them. As time goes by you need to determine whether you are still meeting those needs or solving their problems. The only way to effectively do this is by reaching out to regular customers through written surveys, questionnaires, telephone surveys, and your Web site. Ask specific questions about past experiences and clients’ current needs.
- Break the high-tech barriers: Voice mail, computerized phone calls, kiosks, and e-mail form letters do nothing to bring you closer to your customers. While technology has made it faster and easier than ever to communicate, it has also taken the human element out of business transactions. Customers have gone full circle and are once again seeking human beings when they have questions or problems that need to be solved. Being accessible, especially to regular customers who have established a relationship with your business, is very important.
- Create loyalty programs: Pay for nine car washes and you get one free. Many business owners have never thought about creating their own clever twist on such a simple loyalty concept. Customers like to be rewarded for their loyalty, whether it comes from paying for a one-year membership and getting three extra months for free or getting discounts in a frequent-buyer program. Make it a point to reward regular customers.
- Maintain a database and use it wisely: Reach out to your regular customers through e-mail. You can use software programs to periodically send messages to your regular customers. Even though it is a mass mailing, you can send something with a personal touch that captures your customers’ attention and meets their needs, which might coincide with a holiday or the change of seasons. Also, keep in mind that too many businesses send the same old reminders again and again. Therefore you should vary your means of contacting your regular customers.
If you have lost a steady customer to the competition or because of dissatisfaction with your service, you need to work a little harder to regain that person’s trust. Here are some tips for bringing back lost customers or clients.
- Offer an incentive for reopening the lines of communication: Give a discount for filling out a survey that could divulge why the customer is dissatisfied or went elsewhere. If you have a personal relationship with clients, there is such a thing as a free lunch: Make the offer and reopen the dialogue.
- Rebuild trust: Offer to resolve the problem and give them a guarantee. This time if they are dissatisfied with your product or service, or find a competitor that is charging less, you will immediately rectify the situation, whether you provide the service for free or beat a competitor’s price.
- Be accountable: Customers respect honesty and accountability. Therefore if you’ve made mistakes, failed to deliver on a promise, or mistreated a customer in any manner, you can simply and sincerely say that you are very sorry. Accountability and an apology can go a long way to rebuilding a relationship.
Whether you are trying to maintain your regular customers or looking to bring back those you have lost, it is always important to remember that flexibility and good customer service should be an inherent part of your plans.