Every bit from a new customer helps to build your business. But what’s better than getting a new customer? Turning that first-time buyer into a loyal supporter, who will not only continue to spend money, but will also help spread the word about your product or service. Here are a few tips to help you grow your base of loyal customers who will keep coming back.
Share Your Knowledge
Offering helpful tips and suggestions about product use or even your own services can be a great way to build loyalty. If you own a dry-cleaning business, sharing weekly stain removal tips on your social media sites will engage your customers and increase their confidence in your skills. Just because someone knows how to get an ink stain out of a shirt doesn’t mean they won’t still need you to clean it regularly. If you install tile, set up a yearly maintenance reminder that it’s time to seal their grout. You can offer them a coupon for the service, but many homeowners prefer to do maintenance themselves. Instead, offer them a coupon for your recommended sealant along with tips for DIY jobs.
Today’s customers are used to instant or immediate gratification. Answering phones, responding to emails, and monitoring your social media sites need to be a priority. When a customer contacts you with a question or complaint, they want a fast response. Waiting 3 days before getting back to them is a good way to lose them to a competitor—if they don’t get what they want from you quickly, they’ll go looking elsewhere. If you’re a one-man-show, keep your mobile device nearby to respond to emails, phone calls, and social media platforms anytime, anywhere. If you have a customer support team, set goals for how quickly they should respond to customer complaints.
Many customer loyalty programs reward customers personally, with coupons or services for the things they buy or use regularly. Offering a coupon for a new item or service is nice and they may try it, but offering a coupon for something the customer already uses or needs is almost a guarantee that they’ll use it again, and will boost their opinion of your brand. Many customer loyalty programs will track purchases and tailor offers based on the customer’s past spending habits. There is a whole industry devoted to learning how to effectively market to your customers, and you can even take classes and get certifications in customer engagement.
Having an honest and transparent business, along with quality products and services, is the key to building any business. While you want to increase your revenue, you do it by building your reputation and customer base, not by scamming the ones you already have. Producing inferior products to save a few pennies per item will quickly translate to a poor reputation and lower sales. Failing to adhere to warranty standards or marketing support services that you have no intention of providing will also hurt your bottom line. Build a quality product, provide quality services, and be honest with your customers. You should never compromise on your business integrity.
Ben Cherry, Professor of Entrepreneurship at California State University San Marcos, adds, “If your customers don’t trust you and if they don’t find you to be full of integrity, they will go elsewhere. Trust is earned through dependability and reliability. How do you demonstrate that to new customers? Deliver on your promises. Even better, over deliver on your promises!
Cherry continues, “Trust takes time to build, especially with a new and unfamiliar business or brand, but can be broken in an instant with a single failed service delivery or an unethical business decision. Once one’s reputation is sullied, it is very difficult to rebuild.”
The number one thing that you can do for customer retention is to resolve customer problems and complaints quickly and efficiently, even if it amounts to a financial loss. Customers have access to large vehicles for expressing their displeasure, and just one terrible review can do significant damage to your reputation, losing potential future customers. On the other hand, if you resolve their issue quickly and to their satisfaction, it can retain their business and help you to expand. When potential customers see “The product arrived damaged, but the return process was simple and I had a replacement within 3 days…” they will have confidence that you’ll do the same for them.
While expanding your business and gaining new customers is important, retaining customers that you already have is significantly cheaper and a much more effective way of increasing your revenue. Focus on building long-lasting relationships with existing customers, rather than advertising to bring in new ones. A loyal customer who is pleased with your service can help do the advertising for you.