As business owners and executives, we intuitively know there are significant growth opportunities through the retention of our existing customer base.
We try different strategies to engage our customers in the hopes of building loyalty and trust. We offer them discounts, access to exclusive events, even provide them with sneak previews of our new products. But it doesn’t always work. Why is that?
One of the things that many organisations fail to do is link employee engagement to their customer retention strategies, and then link that retention to the bottom line. The reason we want to retain our customers is to help grow our business.
So why don’t more organisations measure that link effectively? Of course we want customers to be happy and we want to provide quality products and services. That is just the means to an end. Ultimately we want our customers to buy more stuff from us and help to bring us new customers who will also buy more stuff from us.
There are three maxims that will help increase retention and ensure that retention directly impacts our bottom line.
Retention happens on the front lines. The most successful organisations recognise that customer retention doesn’t happen in the executive offices or on company retreats; it happens with the people who face customers every day.
This may mean a customer visiting your store, surfing your website, calling your customer service department, reading about you in the newspaper or even walking into your head office.
Empower front-line staff
The people who have the most influence over whether customers come back are the people who deal directly with those customers. What impression do you give to customers when they interact with you?
Employee empowerment fuels retention. Since retention happens on the front lines of your organisation, the best retention strategy is one that empowers your front-line employees to use good judgement that is in the best interest of the customer.
These front-line employees are the face of your organisation and need to be passionate about what they are doing and the organisation they are working for.
It’s very easy for customers to spot employees who are not passionate and engaged in their work because, more often than not, they ignore the customer and don’t ask about their needs. Few things are more frustrating for a customer than dealing with someone who is indifferent to their needs and wants.
Are you giving your employees the freedom to use their judgement in making decisions that are in the best interests of the customer?
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Target customer retention
Measure retention, not satisfaction. When I suggest you need to measure retention, I don’t mean customer satisfaction surveys or focus groups. High customer satisfaction scores only mean that you are meeting customer expectations, but what if those expectations are too low?
We want customers to feel emotionally connected to our organisation and become an ambassador for it. We want them to tell their friends, family, peers and colleagues about the great experience they had with us.
We want customers who will keep coming back because they see the value of what our organisation can offer them. Are you measuring customer retention and linking that retention to bottom-line results, or merely reporting on how happy your customers are?
I often tell my clients the quickest way for them to grow is through their existing customer base. This might mean offering new products and services to those existing clients, or leveraging those clients for introductions to new prospective clients. Organisations that master these strategies will grow more quickly and easily and they will see customer retention increase.
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Expert tips on improving customer loyalty
Entrepreneur’s top international experts offer their insider insights.
Humanise your brand by interacting and engaging in social media channels. Behaving like a person rather than a corporation is what makes your customers feel a closer, more personal connection with your brand; and that will result in stronger brand loyalty. – Jayson DeMers, AudienceBloom
Give them a heads up. Treat your best customers like insiders. Let them know what’s going on before you tell anyone else. Include them in your decisions, ask for their feedback. Let them have the inside track and then they will feel a vested interest in staying with you. As the old adage goes, ‘Treat your company like family and your family like company.’ Apply that thinking to your most loyal customers and they will stick with you. – Jim Joseph, Cohn & Wolfe
Go above and beyond doing whatever it takes to show your customers how much you love them. Care about each person as a human, not a number. – Lewis Howes, LewisHowes.com
Show that you care about their business as much as yours. Many clients aren’t good judges of the quality of your work, but they do know, appreciate and value a smooth and thoughtful working process, no matter what service is being rendered. Also, actual contact in real time greatly enhances the bonds between people — that includes client relationships — so don’t fall back on electronic communication by default. Ask in every situation what is the best way to communicate. – Ilise Benun, Marketing-Mentor.com
Improve your customer loyalty by measuring it. By regularly and consistently reaching out to your customers for feedback on what is working and what isn’t, you can stay on top of trends and adjust as needed. Far too many companies have a ‘don’t ask them, we don’t really want to know attitude’. And if you do ask, get back to your customers about what you heard and what you plan to do about it. Nothing will destroy loyalty faster than asking but not taking any action. – Karen Leland, Sterling Marketing Group
Do something for your customers that they don’t expect. The phrase ‘be remarkable’ is often thrown around yet seldom taken to heart by businesses. Give your customers a reason to talk about you in a positive light. People don’t want to share average experiences with their friends. They want to talk about the remarkable ones. – Rick Mulready, RickMulready.com
Give customers a great experience with your brand. Period. – Adam Kleinberg, Traction