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For any business, big or small, customers are your lifeblood. Moreover, retaining the customers you already have is often as important as the marketing efforts you undertake to find new ones. In many businesses, loyal returning customers can account for 55 to 70 percent of total sales. Retaining good customers can, therefore, lead to greater profits. Is your company doing everything it can to keep your good customers coming back for more? Here are five great strategies to improve customer retention, and add to your bottom line.

Strive to Provide What Customers Want or Need

In order to retain customers, you first have to provide something of value to them. Your product or service must satisfy your customers’ requirements, either due to quality, price, excellent service, or a combination of all three. If your product or service “scratches the itch” of clients, chances are they are going to come back to you again and again to get it. It is also important to maintain situational awareness so that your company can adapt to change. If customers begin wanting something different, you have to be prepared to meet their needs if you want to retain them.

Invest in Customer Service

If you have ever had an experience, good or bad, with a company’s customer service department, you know how much it can shape your loyalty to the company in question; a positive experience can increase your dedication to the brand while arguing with an ineffective customer service representative is often a deal breaker. Ensure that you select and train the right people to work in customer service, and provide very clear guidelines for them on how to operate. You should also routinely monitor them, and make certain that they are providing the level of serve and interaction with clients that you expect.

Provide Great Support

Similar to customer service, customer support for products or services you have already provided is important as well, and plays a key role in retaining loyal customers. Support can take many forms. Warranties and guarantees, for example, can make clients more comfortable with products or services your company provides. Online or field support for products, such as software or machinery, can also help differentiate your company from competitors and build customer loyalty. As you design products or services, consider carefully the level of support you can provide your clients when they purchase them, as these decisions can go a long way towards future sales.

Encourage Feedback

One of the best ways to ensure you are meeting clients’ expectations is to enable feedback. In a small business, a simple follow-up call may be enough to ascertain whether or not your customers are satisfied. You may also want to take advantage of social media, and monitor comments that customers leave about products or services on your Facebook page. Product reviews on your website, or on a larger one like Amazon can also be helpful to gauge whether or not you are meeting customers’ expectations. You can use all of this feedback to either continue providing the current products and services to satisfied customers or to make recommended changes to better meet your customers’ needs.

Reward Loyalty

If you want to maintain loyal customers, consider rewarding them for their continued patronage. For example, you could initiate some sort of rewards program that offers discounts to customers based on regular purchases of your products or services. If you have a new high-demand product or offer that you think your loyal customers will be interested in, give them an early option to purchase it before it goes public. The more customers see that you value their loyalty and that they gain from it, the better chance you have of retaining them.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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