Customer management and retention is all about juggling between getting new customers while ensuring the ones you already have, remain, and hopefully become salespeople for your brand (Brand Advocates), who help grow your revenue organically, while reducing procurement costs in the process.
That said, deciding whether you should focus more on customer acquisition or retention is heavily dependent on what stage of its lifecycle your store is presently and also, what it is that you are selling. It’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’. You must adapt your approach according to your product and target. Namely, for companies whose main line is high value items, they will have the highest customer lifetime value (CLV) and therefore, a retention program is paramount.
Where in its lifecycle is your store positioned for retention programs?
For example, if it’s a new venture, getting clients is a priority, and you need to focus on strategies and tactics that will help you grow your customer base. Here you are bent on getting more feet through the door or more hits online. Successful brands offer a unique, personalised Customer Journey.
As time goes and you have a handful of customers, and are managing to move a little product, with sporadic sales, you can introduce elements to encouragecustomers to maybe stretch a little and purchase more. Through retention email campaigns you can reach out to past customers and encourage them to purchase from you again, maybe even add an incentive like a special for returning customers.
By building relationships with them, you can turn a first-time purchaser into a repeat one. It’s about reciprocity. The concept is simple: treat people well and they’ll respond accordingly. Just like if you treat them badly, the same principle applies. True story.
If your customer base is growing nicely, sales are improving and merchandise is moving, you can introduce a referral/loyalty program and even consider introducing marketing automation to handle those sales, while mixing in more retention alongside your acquisition efforts.
Of the research conducted among B2B marketers, 54% said that referral programs have a lower cost-per-lead than other channels.
So, now your brand is established, good for you! Question: how do you continue growing? This is the essence of a retention strategy; you should ramp up your efforts and be deliberate and determined in your approach. Find ways to consistently delight your customers. This could be in the form of discounts and freebies. You create reciprocity through small, inexpensive but considerate gestures which show that the customer is indeed King, that they matter and that you care.
Last, if your operation is well-established and you have burnt the midnight oil and you are running on automation and well conceived process, this is the time to focus heavily on customer retention as it is the satisfied customer that keeps the wheels of retail running.
So where to now?
Customer care and retention is a fine line between luring and listening and hunting and nurturing. Basically, juggling. Here are a few (of many) pointers to help towards customer retention, while you keep all those balls in the air.
Analyse your customer churn system
Companies should be analysing why customers leave, the reasons they give if any, and how they were handled at the time, while finding a solution to reduce customer churn.
If you have kept your finger on the customer’s pulse via ongoing communication, chances are you would have had an inkling if they were considering leaving, right? By taking the time to get to know your customers, you build rapport and trust. You would be aware of areas that they had found lacking and you would have had opportunity to interact with them. This is where customer feedback is vital to successful retention.
No company can expect to retain customers without knowing their pain points, their opinions or views about your brand and products. Why are some of your customers loyal brand advocates and others not and how can you find out their reasoning? Well, the most reliable source is obviously the customers themselves! Customers appreciate it when you ask them for their opinion, in fact they lurve it!
Companies need to provide a system that the organisation uses for collecting, analysing, and distributing customer reviews and surveys, basically, a customer feedback loop.
For this, regular surveys appear to be the most frequent means of obtaining data, along with asking customers to test your products or participate in focus groups. This will furnish the company’s team with relevant customer feedback and data with which to assess trends and customer behaviour. This will also offer the opportunity to efficiently address criticism, which is vital to enhance the Customer Journey and strengthen ties with your customer base.
Through regularly engaging with customers and asking for their feedback – especially those marvellous Brand Ambassadors – you’ll get a peek into how they think, and this insight can aid in you better understanding how they view your brand — first-hand. Additionally, engagement can help reveal insights on which to form major decisions internally and, ultimately, can help to convert window shoppers into long-term customers.
By keeping a communications calendar, you can be proactive in communicating with customers, reaching out to them if they haven’t interacted with your brand for a while, re-establishing your relationship with them. The calendar notes the last time that a customer reached out, while alerting you to subscription renewal dates and more, offering an opportunity to make contact yourself, creating opportunities to not only upsell, but also to cross-sell while luring them with promotional offers too.
As simple as it is, company newsletters serve as prodding mechanisms, reminding customers about your brand every time they open their inbox, and are a simple and cost-effective way of retaining customers. The great thing about a newsletter is that it is sent to your entire customer base in one shot or, through using an RSS feed you can choose the frequency of delivery without worrying about remembering to manually update and then send.
Offer a unique service or surprise your customers
According to Salesforce, “79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for contextualized interactions in which they’re immediately known and understood.” What is your unique selling point (USP)?
If your business sells a physical product, (opposed to a service) one of the best ways to offer a unique service is to include a smaller product for free, gratis, with the product they ordered. For other businesses, offering a coupon for a free consultation, or a meeting with a coach or consultant, a DIY workshop etc will put a smile on a customer’s dial.
While reciprocity is a great strategy of its own, research shows it’s far more powerful when it’s a surprise. So, surprise them and you’ll be surprised by your retention stats.
Trust doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time to build, yet just one small slip-up can destroy it.
Trust is built on a number of things, but possibly top of the list is reliability, whether in the product, the service or the actual interaction customers have with your brand. Another key characteristic that builds trust is consistency. If you claim to deliver value to your customers, ensure you are consistent in everything you offer, including brand messaging, the promises you brag about and the quality of product and service, including communicating with them. They take you on your word — and don’t drop balls else you’ll destroy trust. (You’re a juggler, remember?)
And in closing, while speed of service, delivery etc is often viewed key, research from Gallup shows that when customers assessed service as “courteous, willing, and helpful” they were nine times more likely to be engaged with the brand, whereas when the service was seen as “speedy”, it only made customers six times more likely to be satisfied.
As the Master Juggler, the last word on customer retention would be: Be authentic, courteous and engaging while offering the best service/product, understanding your customers’ needs, foibles and idiosyncrasies, communicating regularly and smiling all the time, while keeping those balls in the air.
Other than that, enjoy the day.