Your customers demonstrate a level of loyalty to you when the buy for the first time. If you want them to return you have to return that loyalty. You do that by meeting certain critical expectations they have. Spoken or unspoken, you must meet these in order to keep your customers. Some of these expectations they will trade off, others they won’t.
You begin any customer retention relationship with three simple questions:
- Why did they buy from you?
- If they could, how would they improve your business?
- How can you add value to them or their business?
How you ask these questions of your customers doesn’t matter as long as they are asked and you get an answer. You can use a questionnaire that is personally delivered or via email, phone or traditional mail. The point is that the customer receives the questions and provides you with the answers. Now if you have high dollar repeat customers those should be handled differently than the average customer. You truly want them to experience something special, so the business owner may want to personally talk to that customer and obtain the answers.
Some may argue that this is a lot of work and effort. Not really when you consider that a healthy well run business has well over 3/4ths of its purchases from repeat customers. Couple that with the cost and time of obtaining new 1st time customers and you easily understand that the effort here isn’t all that much.
“Making a good impression on your customers, both 1st time and repeat, can have a positive impact on their spending habits with you.”
Customer retention turns into predictable sales, that, of course, ensures predictable revenues and that predictability assists greatly in planning the growth of your business.
The answers to those three questions are but a start. The real beginning of customer retention is at that first purchase and each subsequent purchase. Those repeat purchases are of course the result of retained customers. Retained customers are loyal customers. They become this because;
- You gave each customer exactly what they expected, no more and no less, and/or,
- You gave them more than they expected, you gave added value.
Your customers want to learn from you. You shouldn’t be afraid to teach them, to make them more knowledgeable. The best way to ensure that is to give your customers quick, easy access to current product knowledge. Don’t be afraid to share. Make certain they are aware of all of the features and benefits of what you sell them, how to use it, how to get the most out of what you provided them. How it adds value to them.
Business Owners like the loyalty of their customers. But are you the Business Owner willing to invest in your customers for their loyalty? Are you always charging them for everything and anything, or can you simply provide what they need at no charge; make an investment in them? If you nickel and dime them, charge for every little thing, you will lose your customer loyalty. The occasional free service or advice will go much further than any actual cost to you.
Earlier I mentioned that you must meet certain critical expectations of your customer in order to obtain their loyalty. These expectations are, what you sold them or what you did for them:
- Operates as you said it would.
- Meets their exact specifications.
- Aligns with their values.
- Is reasonably priced.
- Will not harm them or others.
- And, the experience was a friendly and positive one.
Those expectations are commonly not something a buyer is willing to trade off. Meet those expectations and your customers will return and buy from you again. If you don’t meet them they may well go elsewhere.
As you look at the process you use to retain your customers remember it is a multiple step operation. This starts with:
- Meeting their critical expectations,
- Knowing the answers to three simple questions,
- Investing in them by adding value,
- Being loyal to them.
While this won’t ensure 100% of your customers becoming repeat buyers, it will certainly result in you obtaining most of your customers. Those customers, in turn, will refer others to you with the end result being that your costs for sustaining and growing your revenues will be lowered, by just doing 4 simple things.