Customer Retention Strategies
The success of your customer retention strategies will depend heavily upon three key factors, which are essentially the pillars of stellar customer retention. These include your ability to:
- Make (and keep) customers happy
- Reduce customer effort
- Delivery quality customer service; first time, every time
Consequently, all strategies created to address one or more of the factors listed above, will contribute effectively towards customer retention.
Depending upon the needs of your business in particular, you can create strategies focusing on any one (again, or more) of these factors and drive retention through the roof.
Seven Infallible Strategies for Customer Retention
Listed below are seven of the simplest, most pertinent steps that will help you get started:
Step #1: Recognize customers as nothing short of valuable assets
…And treat them such!
One of the biggest determinants of loyalty is the buying experience a customer has when on your e-commerce platform. Research by McKinsey reveals that a whopping 70 percent of buying experiences are a function of how customers feel they are being treated; which is why it is important for you to clarify what customers truly ‘mean’ to your business and consequently, how they should be treated, from the get go.
This will ensure no customer is ever treated like a transaction, instead of being treated as a valued asset, and is your first step towards improving retention.
The second step is to make and keep customers happy through timely delivery of exceptional customer service.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Prioritize service
Contrary to what traditional media will have you believe, product or price are not the key reasons of churn. It’s customer service or service delivery.The Accenture Global Customer Satisfaction Report (2008) reveals that “overall poor quality of customer service” is the main reason for customer attrition. Results of a Bain & Company report reveal that service-related problems increase the likelihood of customer attrition four times as much as product- or price-related problems.There exists a body of other independent researchers that conclude the same – more customers leave you because they don’t like your service, than when they don’t like your products or prices.The need to prioritize service delivery and customer service is easy to see now, isn’t it? Communicate the need internally within your organization; educate customer-facing staff in the mantras of great customer service; and set up systems to monitor the service delivered by your personnel.
- Get proactive
Proactive customer service is the next-generation of customer service philosophies. Compared to its traditional counterpart, which involves fire-fighting problems as they occur; proactive customer service is anticipatory in nature and involves nipping problems in the bud even before they occur.Delivering proactive customer service can be as simple as calling a customer after they have received the product, and inquiring whether or not everything was okay.It can be as not-so-simple as texting customers about an expected delay in shipment or advising them about a due payment weeks in advance. It can also be as complex as informing customers about an expected drop in prices of the product they recently purchased, sometime in the near future and advising them on their next steps. Amazon for instance, offers a best-in-industry price-drop refund that allows customers to request reimbursement on the difference if prices drop within a week of purchase.What anticipatory customer service means for your staff will depend upon the details of your business. However, it helps to remember that any support extended to the customer from your side, before the customer comes asking for it, is proactive service and will help you boost loyalty.
- Get personal
Gone are the days when you could address someone as “Dear customer” and still be on their good books. The plethora of customer relationship management tools have made it possible for businesses to treat every single one of their customers with personalization and customization.Best-practices in customer service personalization include using names in all brand communications (written or verbal), using the right words to show empathy, and providing relevant (customized) solutions to customer problems. Phrases like “I don’t know, but I will find out for you.”, “I would be happy to help you with this.”, “I can understand, I would be frustrated too.”, and “Thank you miss Jane, is there anything else I can help you with?” show you care about the experience of customers and makes them happy.Above everything else, be sure to resolve customer problems as soon as possible, and as effectively as possible. The White House Office of Consumer Affair reveals that satisfied customers who have had their issues resolved and are happy with it, share their experience with about four to six people, spreading good word about your business in the process.
- Get delightful
One of the most sure-fire ways to unleash retentiveness of your current customer base is to aim to delight (and not just satisfy) customers through customer service.Proactive services and personalized, empathetic responses will help you make and keep customers happy. However, to delight them you will have to up the ante with gifts and surprises that show reciprocity.Reciprocity, which is the act of doing something good for someone in response to the good they do or have done for you, is touted by many to be the number one factor that builds loyalty.Make the best use of it by providing sweet surprises to your customers and delighting them time and again. You may send a free gift, a special loyalty discount, and other special offers to show appreciation for their loyalty.
Do not try to sell anything with these gifts and put no terms or conditions of use to your loyalty gift cards. Instead, allow complete freedom of use to customers for that truly delightful experience. This way customers will remember you even when faced by competition.
Step #2: Build a relationship that’s larger than your business
Sure, sales of your products or services are the key to staying afloat. However, they should not be your only concern. Sales in fact are sometimes a funny thing – they sometimes come to you when you stop chasing them.
So what should you do instead? Focus on building a strong, profitable relationship with your customers. A relationship that is larger than your business.
One of the easiest ways to cement relationships with customers is to care about shared values. Stand up for something – a social cause, a deep-rooted value, an operational philosophy – that can strike a chord with your customers and will boost loyalty among like-minded customers.
No we are not kidding! Results of a Corporate Executive Board study found that 64 percent of the 7,000 U.S. customers who cited having a “strong bond” with a brand listed shared values as the number one reason! This is because consumers are increasingly getting socially conscious and they want their companies to be so too.
Taking a public stand on social issues will also help you deliver your corporate social responsibility beliefs, boosting loyalty further.
The 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study found that 80 percent of American consumers are likely to switch from non-conscious brands to socially-conscious brands provided comparable quality and affordability. In addition, the 2014 Nielsen Doing Well by Doing Good study reveals that 42 percent customers from North America said they would be okay paying extra for products and services that came from companies creating positive social and/or environmental impact.
Step #3: Stay in touch constantly
Through regular communication, you will be able to create and reach a state of top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) among your target market segment, which will not just boost retention but also prevent attrition.
TOMA is when customers think of your brand or platform without advertisement. It’s when they think about your company first, before the name of your competitors comes to their mind.
The good news is, much of top-of-mind awareness is related with brand awareness and recall, both of which can be maximized through regular communication.
- Start by creating social media platforms (if you don’t have them already). You want to have a company page on the ‘big three’ of social media (Facebook, Twitter, & Google Plus) as well as the professional networking giant LinkedIn and the photo-sharing websites (either) Pinterest or Instagram.
- Link these social profiles with your business website or e-commerce platform. Set up automatic sharing of content through all channels to boost content visibility. There are a host of social media marketing tools (listed below) that will help you automate this task and more.
- Create an editorial calendar to ensure you are churning out enough fresh content on a regular basis. Use tools such as Post Planner, Beatrix, Feedly, it, and Storify to name a few, to automatically find and share relevant content; Buffer and its extension BulkBuffer to schedule mass posts according to your editorial calendar; Bundle Post for automatic sourcing and sharing of popular, authoritative tweets from your industry and so on.
With a little research you will find that it may not even be necessary to use different tools for different tasks. Apps such as Feedly and Scoop.it can perform all tasks from content curation, long and short-term scheduling, multi-channel sharing, and even analytics.
- Next, shift your attention to blogging – one of the most evergreen and effective content marketing strategies since the beginning of online marketing. You want to keep your blog posts either educational or entertaining but never ‘salesy’. A blogging best-practice is to add value to readers’ lives by sharing content they will find helpful. For instance, if you sell software products, your posts can talk about the do’s and don’ts of purchasing software products online, the pitfalls online purchasers should be wary of, so on and so forth. Be sure to invite readers to share their two cents by leaving you comments.
- Take blogging to the next level by inviting noted industry bloggers, the ‘influencers’ to make guest posts on your blog. This will add further credibility and boost reputation among readers. Further, be sure to find and utilize any opportunities of guest blogging on authoritative websites. This will expose you to the already loyal readers of the blog on which you are posting as a guest, give you new followers, and also establish you as a much sought after thought leader.
There are a host of tools, technologies, and services to make this easy for you. One of the best ways to go would be to hire one or more content writers. If you cannot afford to have a full-time writer in house, you can opt for freelance content writers from websites such as Elance, Freelancer, Upwork, People per Hour, and Freelance Writing Gigs to name a few.
There’s a third option as well. If you already have a small content team at hand, you can make them more effective by using the content marketing tools and technologies of today. For instance, your team can improve readership of blog posts by using the King Sumo application to improve blog headlines. The application is a WordPress plugin that lets you create up to 10 alternative titles for your blog posts and check in real time, which is the best performing headline to be used for the final post. Here’s a quick list of 18 nifty tools you can use to improve content writing, increase content frequency and speed, boost communications, and raise top-of-mind awareness for increased retention and reduced attrition.
Step #4: Talk to the ones that got away
Find out what triggered attrition in the customers that chose to leave you for competitors.
One easy way would be to invite customers to fill-up a quick feedback form as they uninstall your app, or unsubscribe from your email marketing and newsletters.
Other ways to get in touch with customers who seemed to have churned is to simply pick up the phone and ask them what put them off. This works especially well for small businesses, where you can easily point out who your most ideal customers are and get in touch with them personally. Remember, you don’t want all customers back, only the ones who had been ideal customers before something put them off and they turned to a competitor.
Compared to the 60 to 70 percent chance you have of re-selling to a current customer, there is a 20 to 40 percent chance of selling to an ex-customer by winning them back. And winning back is a three-step procedure. After you have reviewed their purchase history with you and decided that you do want them back:
- Get in touch with them promptly to find out what went wrong. You may use mail or telephone, depending on what has been the preferred medium of communication used by the deferred customer in the past.
- Take responsibility for what went wrong, while communicating clearly what you plan to do in order to ensure the same problem does not occur again.
- Present a new offer to the customer, depending upon their complaint. Or simply ask them if you could keep sending them industry-specific information and offers as you did before. The idea at this stage is to have the lost customer open at least one channel of communication between themselves and your business.
Once they have agreed to it, you can slowly push relevant, informative, and high-value non-salesy content to them. Be sure to send any offers and discounts you are hosting their way, and before long, they will be ready to make their first purchase as a won-back customer.
Step #5: Talk to the ones that chose to stay
This is an easy one. Invite the most loyal of your customers to participate in a small survey to help you improve your products and services.
Position these surveys or feedback forms to follow typical ‘gain points’ in their purchase cycle (such as when a successful delivery has been made, or when they have successfully used a discount coupon for a purchase). The idea is to find out what product/service, service delivery, and customer service factors appeals the most to your loyal customers. You can also invite customers in for a detailed feedback. But you will need to include small rewards to encourage participation in these long-form surveys or feedback.
Use what you learn from these surveys to boost your product/service quality, customer service delivery, and general customer experience. Focus on what the customers have pointed out as positive. And aim to minimize what customers pointed out as negative (from strategy #4).
Step #6: Invest in key areas that make customers’ lives easy
Start with the areas where you are weak.
Your customers may have pointed these areas out, or you may have found them out through test runs conducted on-site. If unsure, you may even get in touch with your customer service personnel to list and prioritize the most common complaints or problems customers share with them.
You will find that the majority of these areas will fall into one or more of the following categories – order fulfillment (for speedy dispatch and delivery), customer service (for timely customer support and complaint resolution), website or e-commerce platform functionality (for ease of product search, research, and order placement), or pricing (for more competitive prices or higher affordability).
The key to success here is prioritizing the improvement initiatives because chances are, you will not be able to undertake all of them at the same time.
A good place to start is to check which single area produces the largest number of problems or complaints. Another way to start is to check which single improvement will result in remarkable customer experience improvement. Updating your website to improve page-load times, optimize navigation, increase search precision, and/or to add additional functionality will have a lasting impact on the overall shopping experience of your customers, thereby boosting loyalty. You could for instance, invest in an advanced, state-of-the-art website that eliminates complexity for users through the use of diverse functionality like multiple ‘filters’ for search; notification choices for out-of-stock products; enhanced visibility of product information; and the like.
Another great investment will be a system for stellar email marketing. Despite being one of the oldest forms of digital marketing, email marketing is one of the most profitable forms of inbound marketing in terms of return on investment. Use tools such as Mail Chimp, Target Hero, and Campaigner to automate the process while getting the most out of your investment on email marketing.
Step #7: Remember to reward loyalty
…And implementing a customer loyalty program is one of the best ways there is to reward loyalty.
The simplest of loyalty programs, which include rewards on second purchases or on reaching a set dollar figure, are surprisingly effective in making your customers feel special and in making them stick to your brand.
Shopify has a great app Klaviyo that keeps track of the spends of individual customers and mails reward coupons to them automatically when they have crossed a landmark.
You can also invest in more comprehensive loyalty programs, such as those that offer rewards for completing tasks like creating an account or referring a friend. Use tools such as Loyalty Lion and SLoyalty to easily set up these loyalty programs, implement, and manage them.
And finally, be sure to keep monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction as well as monthly churn and retention. This will help you see which strategies are working for you and which aren’t. Focus on the customer retention strategies that are working and eliminate or optimize the ones that aren’t able to reach high levels of retention within a relatively short span of time.
Three Ways to Retain Website Members
Having a large number of online visitors on your membership website needs to be complemented with a substantial number of satisfied and loyal users.
Without the support of a group of loyal members, your membership site will not be able to generate a steady flow of income and the overall performance will lag.
Given below are some key strategies that will help you retain the members of your website.
- Regularly create original and interesting content
There is nothing more important than creating original content for your users so that they are able to frequently draw some value from your site. Depending upon the nature of your website, your content should be informative or entertaining for your target audience. It will help show your dedication towards maintaining the website. Ensure that your website adds fresh content on a frequent basis and that you can easily update it in case you want to make any changes later on.
- Engage with your members
The content of your website is simply a passive method of communicating with your members. The users of a website are more likely to continue using a website if they are able to interact with you or with other users pertaining the topics seen on certain pages. Make it easy for your members to reach you and other users over social media and keep interacting with them to show the human side of your website. Engaging with your members on social media also has the benefit of drawing in people who are in the same social circles towards your website.
- Establish a system for customer support
If someone has paid to register to your website, ensure that you have a comprehensive system that deals with any problems they may face. Create a “frequently asked questions” and a “troubleshooting” page to give your visitors solutions to common problems.
If your website includes downloads, passwords, access to mobile devices etc., make sure you guide the visitor through the entire process and include links to any third-party software that needs to be used. Also, make yourself or a technical expert available to help people who are having genuine technical problems with your website.
Making your website more intuitive and interactive will make it easy to navigate for first-time visitors and loyal members alike. With some effort and dedication, you will be able to retain a large number of loyal members and push your website towards online success.