Business growth is a prime concern for almost every company, especially small businesses. When your customer base is small, every customer is important—whether you’re trying to get new ones or keep the ones you have. In this article, we focus on the latter goal of customer retention because acquiring new customers can cost as much as five times more than retaining your current ones. See below for tips on thoughtful customer relationship management that will keep customers coming back for years to come.
Customer Retention: 3 Tips for Long-Term Success
1. Be available.
To foster a great customer relationship, it’s important to adopt an “always-on” approach. Why? Because 64% of consumers expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real-time, according to Salesforce research.
This stat isn’t surprising given our highly connected world and the growing expectation of instant gratification. A customer can contact you anytime, anywhere, so you must maximize your availability to capture those interactions. Keep multiple channels open—email, online chat, social media, phone, etc.—for as many hours a day as possible.
Ideally, your business should be available in some form 24/7, but that may not always be feasible. If limited availability is the case for your business, be sure you at least maintain great response times. Customers need to be assured you’ll get back to them on time—if not immediately, then by the next day.
To note, your business should be available for every type of customer interaction, whether it’s sales, project delivery, customer service, or technical support. Customers need to know that whatever concerns they have, your team is ready to address them, quickly.
2. Be proactive.
The Salesforce research mentioned above also notes how 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. How can you anticipate what your customers want before they tell you? While you may not be a mind reader, there are many ways you can proactively address customer concerns:
Produce helpful resources.
You may think your products are intuitive, but not every customer will agree with that. Whether you sell a physical or digital product, customers often need help understanding how to use what you’ve created. You can develop an online knowledgebase, produce how-to videos, and more. Customers can then use these resources to get the most from your products.
Describe post-purchase expectations.
Once your customers purchase your product or service, they must understand what to expect. When will they receive their item? How do returns work? How do they engage with your service offering? Anticipate the questions customers will ask and answer them immediately, so your customers aren’t left wondering.
Provide status updates.
If you work closely with clients on sizeable projects—such as developing a website or building an office—timely updates on progress can be very helpful. Clients want to know what’s going on and what to expect, so make sure to assign someone to keep your clients informed on delivery timelines and potential issues.
Ask for feedback.
Your customers hold a wealth of insights about your products and services. They know what things they like, and what needs to be improved. Oftentimes, all you need to do is ask them for feedback, and they’re happy to provide it. You can learn about ways to improve your products for future redesigns, revamp your services to provide better customer experience, and even identify new business verticals to explore.
As you get to know your customers better, you’ll be able to better anticipate and address their needs. Of course, customer needs will evolve over time, which means you’ll need to continually learn and adapt to their preferences.
3. Be different.
Did you know that 57% of customers stop buying from a company because a competitor provides a better customer experience? This insight comes from the aforementioned Salesforce research, and it’s telling of how the customer experience can significantly impact customer retention.
If you want to avoid losing customers to the competition, pay close attention to your competitors’ pricing models, marketing tactics, product and service offerings, and customer service approach. It may be tempting to copy what they’re doing, but what you should really focus on is differentiating your business in a way that appeals to your customers.
Here are a few examples:
- Develop a deep knowledge of customer pain points and share with them how your products accurately address those pains. (Bonus points for identifying how your competitors’ products fall short.)
- Include unique approaches or experiences in your services that competitors don’t offer.
- Add complimentary services or bundle relevant products together to provide customers with the additional value they can’t get from the competition.
Following the above tips can go a long way in bolstering your customer retention efforts. But for them to be effective, you must put forth the additional effort and adjust your business processes accordingly. Once you do, you’ll start to see longer-term customers and an uptick in profits.