Making that first impression in business with the appearance of your web site, the decor, the marketing, or just the friendliness of the first company representative a customer encounters, helps to brand your business. You don't always have to be faster or cheaper to keep your customers from straying off to the competition, but you need to maintain a consistent brand of professionalism, speed, and convenience.
Customers may leave because they don't like your product, their friends have influenced them to move to another company, or the competition simply has you beat, but according to statistics, most customers leave because of a change in attitude or indifference by the business. Customers always have to think you care, and customers want you to make them feel good.
Using the time-honored tenet of it being easier to keep an old customer than to find a new one, companies need to concentrate on customer user groups, periodic surveys, social networking, blogging, and above all - customer service. When you have hired the right people, and your employees know how to make customers feel important, customers keep coming back.
For instance, the hairdresser at the salon I have used for years recently relocated to another state. As most of you know, a woman's hairdresser is really important, and never to be taken lightly. And, so after my hairdresser left, the owner of the salon called me, and asked me what she could do for me to help meet my needs. I was a bit elusive at the beginning since I didn't feel as if the owner had been paying attention, but within a few days the owner called me, continued to stay in contact, offered suggestions, and made me feel as if I was a very important client. I was able to openly discuss some reservations I had about changing products and stylist, but she was informative, honest, and won my confidence back.
Customer retention strategies are an ongoing process. Concentrate on the most important elements:
- Hire the right people who have the right attitude. Are they friendly? Do they thank you?
- Do what you promise. Customers remember, and customers leave if you disappoint them by not delivering what you promise.
- Pay attention to your customers, and what is going on around you in your business.
- Help the customer even though it might not mean a sale at that particular time. Go beyond your own needs.
- Handle complaints in a mature manner. Admit when something has gone wrong, and correct your mistake. Always apologize to the customer.
- Stay in contact with the customer, and know their needs.
If you keep a database of addresses and email lists, send your customers birthday cards, promotions, and current interesting information. You want to stay in their minds, but never make it seem as if you are being a pest.