Many businesses speak the language of customer service/customer retention, but in practice, creating true customer loyalty often takes a back seat to gaining new customers. Both are important to remain competitive and to grow your business. Many people do not realise, however, that it costs 5–10 times more to attract new customers than to keep existing ones satisfied.
Here are a few ideas to create customer loyalty AND increase referrals to your business:
- Businesses that have true customer loyalty have employees at all levels that understand everyone is responsible for business development and customer retention, not just those with sales, manager, or customer service titles.
Consistently train all employees to understand their unique impact on customers even if they do not have direct customer interaction. Have meetings where everyone shares their experiences as consumers with other companies in outside industries. Ask what they classify as great customer service compared to poor customer service. You will see people discuss everything from how companies answer the phone to how employees handle an issue even if it is not in their direct job responsibility. Then ask THEM how the company could improve the overall customer experience, based on their current role.
Engage employees one on one and make sure you keep an open dialog for them to share ideas on ways to improve. You can also share how company growth can create new opportunities for them. Often, employees have good ideas on how to save money, retain more customers, and increase sales, but are not asked directly for their feedback.
- Understand your best customer is someone else’s best prospect. We cannot take good customers for granted. Here are some ways to avoid complacency:
- Train your team: Never be too busy to thank a customer for their business.
- Be proactive: You need to help solve your customers’ problems and eliminate any opportunities for your competitors to come in and offer additional products and services. Do not just take an order. Ask some questions. Customers may not realise what else they need. Most companies that are excellent at cross selling/up selling simply have taught their people to listen for problems, ask more questions, and then offer solutions.
- Things go wrong. When they do, reach out to your customers. Some will not call and complain. They will eventually just go away. Many loyal customers will forgive and forget if you reach out, apologise, and tell them how you are going to work to make things better. The mistake is thinking they do not need the call; or the apology.
- Do you want more of those great, loyal customers? Generate referrals just by asking your best customers for introductions. Many of your customers may know key decision makers at several other businesses in the same area. Only about 30% of loyal customers would proactively send referrals even if they were extremely satisfied. But up to 70% would consider it if you ASKED. Here’s how:
- Recognise they are a valued customer: “Jim, I appreciate you being a loyal and long-term customer and we want to grow our business with other customers just like you.”
- Give them a few trigger ideas on what type of customer you are looking for: “Who else do you know in the area that might be looking for a local supplier that (can make same day deliveries; make sure they have all their special items always in stock; specialises in helping the ____industry) that you may be able to introduce me to?”
- When they agree, offer to send them an email to make the connection. “I know you’re busy so I’ll just send you a brief e-mail about what we do and you can just forward the introduction to (Brian) to connect us. How does that sound?”
- When you get a referral, send something. Ask new customers how they heard about you. A small thank you gift, a voucher, or even a hand written note can make a big difference and help you continue to build your business and attract loyal customers.
These are just a few ideas to get you started on creating loyal customers. Try some of them out and see if you gain more loyal customers.
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