How to create repeat customers: 4 strategies you can use today

I wasn’t a great physics student, but I do know this—when a customer walks in the door or another call comes through, there’s a moment of enormous potential energy. How do we turn that energy into the kinetic kind—where the customer leaves and then transforms the energy of their interaction into more new business, and we the stakeholders feel energized?

As a general manager for a small retail business, I spent a lot of hours one-on-one with customers. Doing so provided me with so much insight into the business behaviors that create repeat customers. The business I worked for had a strong foundation of repeat business—somewhere in the ballpark of 60% of our customers had shopped with us before. That fact alone drove a sizable portion of our profitability, and there’s general evidence to support that.

Here are two loaded statistics:

In other words, repeat customers spend more, and they do the customer acquisition for you. A happy customer talking to her neighbors and friends about your business is more powerful than your email marketing, or social media, or the sticker on the outside of your work truck. So, how do you take care of them?

Here are four strategies to get you started.

1. Ask questions that build genuine connection.

Every sentence your customer utters holds enormous potential energy, and making a few small tweaks to your questions can establish a more quality relationship at the outset.

  • Instead of “how are you?”, try something like “what’s happening in your week?”
    The subtle difference between these questions is that one will get you a “good” or “fine” and the other might really help you figure out what’s going on and how you can help. With the latter example, your customer is likely to give you concrete information in their answer that you can return to.
  • Establish a listening mindset, rather than hearing mindset.
    If you’re merely hearing someone, you have an agenda and are waiting to implement it (take note: are you interrupting?). But listening means you are reflecting on what’s being said, and that drives your response. Reflective listening means that you paraphrase or mirror what a customer says to you, which helps build trust. For example,

“I heard you say that you have family coming into town in May, and you’d really like this issue resolved by then. Did I hear you correctly?”

Or this one:

“I heard you say that you have family coming into town in May, and you’d really like this issue resolved by then. Did I hear you correctly?”

The bottom line is that there’s a direct correlation between customer trust and customer loyalty, and you can strengthen this link through your intake interaction alone.

2. Build a forecast into every customer interaction.

Once you’ve established trust, but before you get further into the customer interaction, it’s helpful provide your customer with a forecast—this conveys a respect for them and their time, and ensures you both are shooting for the same outcome. This can be as simple as saying,

Before we go any further, I’d like to establish what we’re going to accomplish today. I want to make sure I hear about your experience last week, and we’ll come up with a plan for our next appointment. Does that sound okay to you?”


“Let’s make sure we tackle [the following] today before we get off the phone. Does that work for you?”

3. Find a way to build “wow” into what you do.

A little “wow” goes a long way, without cutting into your bandwidth. In fact, it shouldn’t really cut into your budget or your time much at all.

Here are a few ideas to build some wow and infuse your business with some positive energy:

  • Establish a “wow” budget. How many customers do you help, on average, each month? How much budget can you allocate per customer? To make the math simple, let’s say you average 10 customers a month, and your budget per customer is $10. That means your monthly wow budget is $100. You can decide (or have your employees help you determine) how this budget is spent. It doesn’t need to be spent evenly across these customers, but it gives you a ballpark number that’s earmarked for “wow” moments.
  • Think outside your business box. Wowing your customers doesn’t have to be a discount on your service or product. When it comes to what the “wow” is, that’s up to you! Maybe it’s supporting a local coffee shop and purchasing gift cards that you drop by customer’s houses with a brief thank you note. Maybe you use your wow budget to market a customer raffle, with a winner receiving tickets to a local event.

If you do decide to provide a discount on their next service, make sure you set healthy expectations:

“We loved getting the chance to help you, and as a thank you we’re extending a one-time 10% discount on your next purchase any time before [set date]!” This ensures that you control any outstanding liability.

  • Surprise and delight your employees—it transforms the company culture. Here’s the thing: surprising and delighting customers does immense things for company morale. But when you bring your staff with you on the journey, empowering them to build wow into what they do, too, your entire business gets a lift.

And maybe your wow budget needs to be spent on your employees from time to time!

We’ve got our own running list of wow-worthy moments that might help inspire you further, including examples of companies doing extraordinary things for their customers.

4. Implement follow-up into your business process.

In the world of sales, only 2% of first calls result in a sale. That’s a super small number! Follow up doesn’t have to be a hassle, and small efforts can have a huge impact on increasing repeat business. If you establish a plan for follow up, you’re more likely to follow through on it. Here’s how to get started:

Decide the follow up format. What works best for you and your business? Is it a brief call, email, or a handwritten note? If it’s a call, schedule that time (and try the lunch hour, not the dinner hour!). If it’s an email, use the recipient’s name in your subject line—doing so increases open rates by 29%. If it’s a note, set aside a half hour (or even just ten minutes) in each day to sit down and write.

Have a plan. Any follow up you do should provide value, personal connection, and next steps.

  • Value: provide concrete information, like a quote for services or a link to your pricing, or a “wow” moment, like a one-time discount.

  • Personal connection: reference a specific point in the conversation that makes your follow up authentic: “I hope you’re able to get to the beach this weekend!” or “I look forward to trying out that restaurant you mentioned.”

  • Next steps: tell your customer when you plan to follow up, and how you plan to do so. Then stick to your promise!

Make it brief, and timely. Try to follow up within 24 to 48 hours of the sale (or if it wasn’t a sale, that initial contact). Make it brief—doing so conveys to your customer that their time is valuable.

If all four strategies feel overwhelming to do at once, tackle one strategy a month, or focus on one each quarter. The best businesses are built on the long game!

For lots of other ideas on building personal connections, we hope you use Ruby as a resource. We’ve built out an ebook on building customer service connections, as well as a guide to fully audit your customer service approach.