Getting that all important first customer is a big mile stone for any business. Once you’ve made that first sale, you need to work at keeping your customers happy to make sure they come back to you.
Never think of a customer in terms of one sale: if you encourage them to use your services again this helps your business in a few ways.
- Repeat customers are obviously a way to build up a regular income for your business. Regular income is vital to pay your business bills and keep your business running.
- All businesses spend a lot of money trying to get new business. If you have a database of existing customers you don’t have to spend a lot of money to encourage them to come back.
- Happy customers help you by spreading the word. They tell people they know about your company so you can gain even more custom, and this amounts to free advertising.
Retaining your customers isn’t as hard as you may think. Here are just a few ways to encourage your customers to come back.
Maintain high quality
This is an important step in keeping all your customers happy, but if your regular customers continue to get the best products and services from you, they will keep coming back and they will make sure others know about you too.
If the quality of what you offer goes down, you may find your customers going elsewhere, and they’ll make sure they tell everyone else as well.
Communication is key to almost everything you do in business, and how you communicate with your customers will go a long way towards whether you keep them or lose them. It also means that your company stays at the front of their minds, so if they are looking for your product again, they’ll remember you’re there.
You do need to communicate carefully though, as if only contact them when you want them to spend money, they’ll soon realise.
One excellent way to keep in touch and communicate is through social media. A good online presence can help you establish a good rapport with your customers. This can be used as a method for two-way communication so that your customers feel as if they and their opinions are valued, not just their money. There are a few simple ways to do this.
- If you need ideas for a new product or are not sure which product to add next, ask your customers what they think. They’ll be happy to give you their feedback.
- Post information about your staff members and special events. It’ll help make your customer base feel like one of the family.
- Being active in the community is a good ice breaker and an excellent way to show you care about your local area. Post items of local news and put photos when you take part in local events.
Anything you can do to get your customers to engage with your business without spending money is a good way to keep them interested in your business.
Social media does need to be managed though, so don’t just post and forget about it. If your customers reply, they want an answer. They want to know that you are listening, so make sure you respond to as many messages as you can.
Now you know how to reach your customers, how easy is it for them to reach you?
Having a contact telephone number and email address is all good and well, but if they have to wait for a reply or to speak to someone, they are more likely to get angry.
- Make sure your contact details are clearly visible on your website.
- Make it easy for them to speak to someone. An automated response can irritate a customer far quicker than someone answering the phone and transferring them.
- If you use an email address, have an automated reply set up indicating how long it might be to reply, but always reply as quickly as possible.
- Use social media as a means of communication. Personal messages are a quick and easy way to answer questions and resolve queries.
- Think about adding a live chat option to your website.
Appreciate your customers
Everyone likes to feel valued, and your regular customers like to feel that you appreciate their business. Simple things like using their first name on an email will help them to feel part of the team.
One easy way to retain your customers is to offer them discounts. You can either email them a discount code, or offer a reward scheme. You can even offer them a free item or a discount if they refer someone else to your business, or even a discount if they buy the same product again. If they like your company and your service, they’ll be more than happy to recommend their family and friends.
Your customers will soon realise if you only get in touch when you have an offer or promotion running. Try to make them feel that they mean more to you than just money. Send out a newsletter with information about the company and ideas you are working on.
Consider the community
Local businesses often get more support from their customers if they put something back in to the community. There are many ways you can do this, and you can encourage your customers to take part as well.
How you do this will depend on the product or service you offer, but here are a few ideas.
- Local charities are always looking for support, so team up with one which you feel you have an affinity with. You can advertise their fund raising events for them and go along and take part as a business. If your customers see you at such an event, it will create a good and memorable impression of you.
- Local sports clubs often need sponsorship, so if you enjoy sport, find out if there’s a way you can help a local team to keep going. Often they need simple things like balls, nets and gear so you don’t necessarily have to make a huge financial outlay.
- If you have kept track of your social media pages, you may see that your customers have taken part in events too. If you notice that one of your regular customers has just run a marathon, for example, share it and praise them for all their hard work.
What not to do
Creating a professional image means good customer service, and there are some things you should never do.
- No matter what the situation, never shout or swear at a customer. A cool head and calm tone will help them to calm down so that you can resolve the problem.
- Never ignore complaints, no matter how minor they may seem to you. If they’ve taken the time to complain it’s because they want you to acknowledge their particular problem. If you ignore them, they’ll be sure to tell everyone they know.
Keep your social media and newsletters free from political comment. You need to remain impartial or you may well end up insulting and losing a large part of your customer base.