Customer service

Getting new customers is one of the hardest challenges in business followed closely by keeping them as customers. Before prospects make a purchase with you they have to 'Know-Like-Trust' you. It’s far easier to sell to existing customers for a second time because they already know, like and trust you. Furthermore, returning customers can spend more than first timers so time invested in strategies that keep customers is so important for the growth of the business. Here are 12 proven strategies that could explode your profitability:

  1. Understand who your most valuable customers are. Knowing who your most valuable customers are is a valuable exercise and keeping hold of them for the long term will have the biggest impact on your profitability. To find out who yours are look at how much they’ve spent, how regularly they buy, how often they refer new customers and how much those new customers spend with you.
  2. Competency isn’t a USP. Competency isn’t a USP, it’s a starting point. To have real impact on customer retention you need to be more than competent and to do this you must create an emotional connection with your clients. Having personal customer relationships is the key to keeping them for the long term. Sharing personal information such as where you live, your favourite food in newsletters, blogs and social media all help to create a personal connection.
  3. Newsletters. Newsletters are the most effective way to build sustainable customer relationships. Print is best and, while more expensive than email, will have many times the impact. Don’t make it too big; it’s the regularity and content that really counts here.
  4. Thank you letters. Thank you letters can be extremely powerful but it’s worth taking the time to do them properly. The best thank you’s are written by hand, on a card, without your company logo, that says ‘I bought this card just for you.’ It’s rare to receive this sort of thank you so don’t underestimate its impact.
  5. Getting customer testimonials. The best time to get a testimonial from a new customer is as soon as they’ve bought something. Build testimonial capture into your sales process and you’ll never have out-of-date testimonials in your marketing material again. The best testimonials should be specific, personal and focus on what is important, for an example a USP.
  6. Upselling. Those that spend more money with you will stay customers for longer and are generally ‘better’ than those who spend less so, for example, if you have tiers of service, the customers who buy the ‘Gold’ package, rather than standard, are more likely to be repeat customers. You should be enticing your customers to upgrade in the knowledge that they will have taken an important step to becoming a more valuable customer that you’ll be likely to keep for longer.
  7. Continuity magic. Continuity isn’t really magic but encourages or compels customers to subscribe to a service and commit to paying into your business each month. There is virtually no business that can’t introduce an element of continuity: restaurants, hairdressers, consultancy businesses and so on. Once a customer is signed up to continuity they don’t have to think about it anymore and that’s good news for keeping customers.
  8. Customer loyalty programmes. Customer loyalty programmes are tried, tested and well-proven. They don’t just work for the big companies and can be equally valuable for much smaller businesses. Customer loyalty programmes allow you collect customer data and then that data can be reused to market to your customers, turning one-off or irregular customers into loyal, regular, high-spending customers.
  9. Best deal for customers. Offers are a really smart way of marketing your business but don’t run the risk of attracting a few new customers while a few old (and profitable) ones walk out the door, annoyed because they don’t qualify for a new customer offer. Always have a deal for your existing customers and make sure that they’re the first to find out about new products or services. Don’t take them for granted and make sure that they always feel like they’re being looked after.
  10. Customer surveys. Customer surveys are simple to do and a great way of taking the temperature of your business. You can feed the results directly back into your business making changes where you feel it’s necessary and they will likely throw up a load of interesting responses that you hadn’t thought of as well as identifying a few weaknesses.
  11. Pain of disconnect. The easier you make if for your customers to leave, the more of them will so creating a Pain of Disconnect that your customers will feel should they choose to become ex-customers is an area you can work on. If you can get your customers engaged in a PRIVATE forum on social media that over time provides real value but they lose access to when they stop being a customer you have created a Pain of Disconnect which is worthy of some thought.
  12. Building continuity through language. The more a customer is accustomed to your way of doing things, the more they feel at home with your business and they’re more like to stay a customer. For example, McDonalds doesn’t sell a “burger” - it sells a “Big Mac”. If you can get customers talking your language, then you’ll be making them feel more at home with you, and less comfortable elsewhere.

By Nigel Botterill, founder of The Entrepreneurs Circle