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Easy Ways to Encourage Customer Retention

StrategyDriven Customer Relationship Management Article |Customer Retention|Easy Ways to Encourage Customer RetentionCustomer retention is one of the hallmarks of a successful business. When you have repeat customers and genuine loyalty, you know that what you have to offer is just what your customer base is looking for. And, when this happens, you don’t need to worry so much about figuring out ways to appeal to more people or different groups. You know where you’re pitching.

Designing a customer loyalty program is one of the most effective strategies to boost your business growth. It is organic and doesn’t require the same amount of resources or time as trying to locate and identify new customers. However, this doesn’t mean that you can be complacent about your customers at all. You still need to think carefully about how you can keep their custom and continue to raise the bar.

So what does it take to ensure customer retention?

Make it Easy to be Loyal

People like doing the easy thing. We prefer supermarkets because they offer everything we need under one roof, we prefer products that free-up our time and once we’ve found something we like, we tend not to keep searching. This is ultimately what customer loyalty is about – you need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to stick with you.

One way you can make it easier is to offer a subscription service with easy and accurate billing. Billsby is a great option for this and the software can even give you a greater understanding of your customers with a value score. For your customers, a subscription means that they don’t have to think about using your company, they can make their choice once and then roll with it.

Another good way to make it easier to be loyal is to offer your customers incentives to continue shopping with your business. Supermarket loyalty cards are some of the best-known programs and many offer their customers discounts and exclusive deals, often based on the customer’s shopping habits. This is why loyalty programs like these are so important – not only can you encourage your customers to spend more by offering small discounts, but you can also learn a lot about them.

The easier you can make it to be loyal, the more likely your customers are to stick by your business. Just make sure that you understand what your customers are looking for and continue to meet their needs better than your competitors!

Stay in Touch

Staying in touch with your customers is all about communication. If you can’t talk to your customers, you won’t be able to tell them about the latest deals you have for them or find out what they could be looking for. There are so many ways to stay in touch now that if you don’t have a social media account, you are already way behind the times! Don’t even bother to continue reading this article just yet – open a new tab right now and set those things up!

Welcome back!

So, now you have a social media account, you need to know how to use it. Social media is brilliant for showing off your brand identity and engaging your customers on a more personal level. You don’t need to be constantly advertising or showing off; you can ask questions, comment on industry developments or simply post things you find interesting or amusing.

Another crucial form of communication is the humble email campaign. Again, if you don’t have one already, you must start thinking about this as soon as possible. You can even use your social media presence to build up your list of email addresses. The key thing to remember is that your emails must be relevant to your audience and provide some value. This might mean sending a newsletter including links to your blog but it could be more tailored and include particular deal codes they can use with your business to get discounts or other incentives.

Staying in touch with your customers should also allow them to influence how you grow and develop your business. In other words, you need to be able to have a conversation, not just a one-way lecture.

Use a Customer Feedback Loop

And that’s where the customer feedback loop comes in. If you want to know what your customers think of your services and business, the best way to find out is to ask them. Yes, it’s really that simple!

Surveys are one of the best ways to ask a lot of customers about a specific aspect of your business and to find out what the majority think. However, you must ask the right questions to get the information you really need. Remember that even though you might really want positive responses to all the questions you ask, the reality is that you know that there are things you need to improve and you need to be neutral to find out what those things are.

Another way to gain customer feedback is to run a focus group. This is a brilliant way to gauge interest in new products or ideas you would like to experiment with soon. Customer focus groups also provide forums for people to give their opinions in a more open way. Though you should certainly keep the conversation from deviating too far from your requirements, allowing your customers to express themselves openly could be hugely beneficial. Asking a market research company to run these groups on your behalf will also remove any possibility of unconscious bias.

Customers want to stay loyal because it is easier than constant shopping around. However, you still have to make an effort to keep their custom and ensure that you don’t take them for granted. Shopping around might be frustrating but it doesn’t mean that your customers can’t be tempted away. Keeping an eye on the competition is one way to avoid losing customers but you should also be thinking about what unique services or products you could offer.

If you really want to keep your customers, the best thing you can do is keep them at the very centre of your business plan.

5 Reasons Customer Service is Important to Small Companies

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article |Customer Service|5 Reasons Customer Service is Important to Small CompaniesAs a small business owner, you may at times find yourself strapped budget-wise. Operating costs, marketing, and logistics may take priority over customer service but it should never be overlooked. Customer service is crucial – especially for small businesses looking to establish themselves in their respective industries.

The following article will articulate 5 reasons why customer service is so important for small businesses.

Customer Referrals

Word of mouth referrals is very important for a business, even more so for one that is just starting. No one is going to tell their friends or family about your business if they were treated rudely or didn’t feel valued as a customer.

People are much more likely to use the products or services of a company if they heard of them through a trusted friend or family member. Keeping existing customers happy is a great way to ensure you have consistent purchases.

Encourages Brand Loyalty

According to most answering services, when customers feel valued by a company, they are more inclined to stick with that company and purchase new product lines outside of their norm. Good customer service is therefore imperative for brand loyalty.

This is how you can extract the most value from a customer since the revenue you get from them comes with much less effort than trying to convert new customers. Great customer service can create life-long brand advocates and who doesn’t want as many of those as possible. One way to achieve this is through a call center or answering service that can tend every customer that calls.

Offers Valuable Insight

Having good customer service can add a valuable resource: knowledge. Some market research can only be done via a customer’s interaction with your customer service reps – and you don’t have to pay extra for it.

For instance, you can train your reps to ask questions about why a customer likes your product or what they use your service for. Their valuable answers can be used to direct your marketing campaigns to truly resonate with your customers. A well-trained customer service team can seamlessly insert these questions into their conversations with your client and phrase them so they are simultaneously providing value to them.

It’s Cost-Effective

The initial investment in your company’s customer service may seem costly but it pales in comparison to new customer acquisition costs. Having return customers means you don’t have to spend anything on their return business. Plus, customers are likely to spend more money with a company they like. Focusing on customer service is usually less expensive than focusing on new customer acquisition.

More Margin for Error

Customers tend to be more forgiving when a company with good customer service makes a mistake. Let’s say a shoe company ships the wrong pair to a customer. Usually, that is enough for a person to stop buying shoes from that company, especially if the company has bad customer service.

As much as the person likes their shoes, one small slip up can be enough for them to abandon them if they are known for poor customer service. Having good customer service will incline a consumer to stick around if you commit a shipping error or even if you raise your prices.

At the core of everything you do you should be providing great customer service because without your customers you wouldn’t be in business and doing what you love. We hope this article has provided you with insight into why this is so important even in this digital age.

Developing Trust With Your Customers

StrategyDriven Customer Relationship Management Article |Customer Service|Developing Trust With Your CustomersPeople tend to think that it’s the quality of a company’s products or services that determine how much success they’re going to have. And it’s true that they are important, but if a business is going to reach its full potential, then there has to be a solid foundation of trust between the company and its customers. Without it, there’s only so far that they can go — and it really isn’t all that far. As such, it’s important that you’re taking steps to develop your customer’s faith in your business. We take a look at a few ways how below.

Make Yourself Available

You could have the best products at the best prices, but if there’s no-one there to answer the questions and concerns of your customers, then there will be a trust issue. If you’re running a business exclusively online, then make no mistake: you need to make yourself available. People are understandably cautious when it comes to buying online, so you really need to show them that you’re trustworthy. If you have a phone number they can call, and answer your email and social media comments quickly, then you’ll be on the right path.

Consistent Performances

Trust is built over time. A new company has no credibility; with them, it could go either way. You can’t win your customer’s trust overnight — you have to do it by offering a high level of service over an extended period. They need to see that you’re reliable. This can happen in various ways: first, you can just build up your website, and your positive reviews. That takes time. You’ll also need to be reliable in other ways, such as always being online. People have doubts if a site is always going offline and/or is slow, so make sure you’re working with a company that offers managed IT services. They’ll ensure that you’re always online and ready for business.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

It’s all good and well promising a customer the world, but if you can’t deliver it, then you’ll end up doing more harm than good. People prefer honesty over boasts! If delivery is going to realistically going to take five days rather than three, then make sure they know it. You don’t impress anyone by telling them how good you are — you just have to show them, and let them come to their own conclusions.

Handling Problems

It doesn’t matter how watertight your ship might seem, eventually you’re going to run into a mistake that affects a customer. This doesn’t have to be the end of the world, providing you take care of the issue. People are pretty forgiving so long as the business does all that’s within its power to rectify the mistake.

Build Your Authority

Finally, look at building your authority. If you know a lot about your products and services, then share the knowledge through blogs, podcasts, and your social media accounts. You’ll quickly become trusted as the go-to company in your field.

Why the Need to Build Relationships is a Myth

In 1937 Dale Carnegie published his celebrated How to Win Friends and Influence People – the first book suggesting sellers build relationships. 1937: with primitive transportation, sellers found clients closer to home; telephones were emerging (FYI – Morse Code was preferred for 40 years after the telephone was invented!); marketing avenues were limited, as was advertising (Sears Catalogue, Life Magazine, The Farmer’s Almanac, the local paper or general store). Obviously there was no technology, or global competition.

Selling focused on natural customers – face-to-face relationships with neighbors and friends. And buyers needed sellers for information and relevance. Relationships were vital.

It’s now 2016. We have a plethora of options to present our solutions. Our communications capability is global, cheap, and ubiquitous. With safe payment and delivery options, global competitors are pervasive. And – here’s the big one – our prospects have the ability to receive the information they need to easily choose a solution without us. Buyers contact us only when they’ve done their Pre-Sales change work and are ready. They don’t need a relationship with us.

The Ploy of Building Relationships

So why do we continue to think we must ‘build relationships’?? As a carryover from Carnegie, relationship building has been used as a ploy to manipulate a sale. If buyers like us, the thinking goes, they’ll buy. Here’s the reality:

Everyone knows you’re pretending. Until you’ve known people over time, through the good times and bad, you’re not in a relationship with anyone, especially when you’re trying to be nice so you can meet your own agenda.

Your ‘relationship’ will not facilitate a sale. Buyers cannot buy unless they have managed their internal change management journey that

  1. assembles all the people needed to be involved and hears their voices/concerns/criteria;
  2. gets buy-in from the Buying Decision Team that something must change;
  3. figures out how to meet everyone’s needs and make adjustments that fit without internal disruption.

Buyers can’t buy until they’re ready, willing, and able to bring something new into their status quo regardless of how ‘nice’ you are.

Buyers aren’t swayed by your niceness. It will, however, make you a preferred vendor WHEN ALL ELSE IS EQUAL and WHEN THEY HAVE REACHED THE POINT OF CHOICE.

It doesn’t work when your focus is a sale. Here is a real dialogue:

SELLER: HI SHARON! AND how are YOU today?? ?
SDM:[picking up the phone in tears, thinking it was my friend] My name’s not Sharon! And I’m rotten. I just put my dog down!

I offered an ‘authentic’ moment, useful as an opportunity to connect: he should have said ‘I’m sorry that happened. Obviously you can’t speak now. Is there a better time? This is a sales call and I’d like to discuss X when you’re feeling better.’

Whether for a large, complex sale, or a small personal item, buyers cannot buy until they have their internal ducks in a row, and then agree to seek an external solution (Step 10 of a 13 Step process). Because the sales model focuses on placing solutions – possible only after buyers have completed their Pre-Sales change management issues – we can’t discern where buyers are along their Buying Decision Path and buyers show up seeking a transactional connection. Our ‘niceness’ (which I’m differentiating from real customer service) is irrelevant; we just sound like everyone else trying to sell them something.

Differentiation?

I’m told sellers use the ‘make nice’ ploy to differentiate – difficult using the conventional sales route. Following acceptable marketing criteria of the era – words and phrases that are in vogue, graphics and colors that are deemed ‘what everyone is doing’ – it’s hard to be unique. And the myth of being a ‘Relationship Manager’ or ‘creating a relationship’ is supposed to show buyers why they should choose us over the competition. See?? I’m NICE!

Here’s the truth: buyers don’t start off wanting to buy anything whether it sounds like they have a need or not. They merely want solve a problem. But they have work to do before they’re ready. It’s only once they’ve determined their systemic change management requirements that they’ll buy – but by then they’ll haven chosen their list of vendors and solutions from online data or referrals.

By focusing on attempting to influence people to buy because we’re nice, we’re left out of their behind-the-scenes decision process and reduced to ‘being there’ when/if they show up (the low hanging fruit, or 5%). Not to mention chasing bad leads with folks who we think should be buyers (Prospects are those who WILL buy, not those who SHOULD buy.).

We can mitigate this and REALLY be nice by entering enter early and facilitating buyers along the route of their systemic change/Pre Sales path. I’ve coded the steps in their decision sequence and developed a model that facilitates Pre-Sales Buyer Readiness (Buying Facilitation®). You don’t have to use my model – create your own! But entering the buyer/seller interaction as a change facilitator will differentiate you and enable a true relationship.

Buyers would never buy from anyone else when a seller has taught the prospect how to assemble ALL of the folks necessary to be part of the Decision Team, or HOW to get everyone on board for change. Remember: they will do this anyway before they buy – they might as well do this with you.

There’s a way to make money AND make nice. It’s by being a true Servant Leader and change facilitator; by entering into a WE Space in which there is a tracit agreement that everyone will be served. Stop using ‘nice’ as a sales ploy. Stop focusing on the low hanging fruit. Add a change management focus and find real buyers who’ve already recognized a problem, and first facilitate them through their route to inclusive, congruent, systemic change. Then you can become part of the Buying Decision Team, make a difference, close more, waste less time, and act with integrity.


About the Author

Sharon Drew MorgenSharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method (www.sharondrewmorgen.com) in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? www.didihearyou.com explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]