Customer retention is the fine art of keeping your customer base delighted by your service and loyal to your product. While customer retention is on the radar for most business owners, it may get lost amidst the day-to-day tasks that keep a business moving. Taking existing customer relationships for granted is rarely intentional, but it can feel surprisingly natural to ease off courting your customers once you get them through the door.
Continuing to charm buyers long after that first sale does require a plan and commitment, but the benefits of keeping them around are well worth the effort.
We’ve put together a list of 10 common mistakes businesses make that wind up losing them their most valuable asset: their customers.
10. Under-educating your base
Many companies overlook one of the best possible outcomes of doing business: the empowerment and gratitude people feel when you open their eyes to all the ways you can make their lives easier.
When it comes to your product or service, don’t be tempted to leave education up to “the Internet.” Take time to help them understand your product benefits; make sure they understand the latest features and updates. Highlight the differences among various product options, so they can easily and confidently make the best choice. They’ll appreciate the saved time, frustration, confusion, and the valuable decision-making power you’re providing them.
As you educate the customer about your products, take time to educate them about your company and your brand, as well. What’s your company’s story? Your values? Specialities or expertise that lend credibility to both you and your products? Make sure your customers know.
Establish yourself as the trusted go-to expert in your field, with just the tools they need, and customers will keep coming back for more.
9. Breaking promises
The crutch of exceptional customer service is doing what you say you’ll do. Failure to deliver on the promise of your good is a recipe for dissatisfaction, prompting your customers to walk away with the impression that you cannot meet their needs.
Take time to review the performance or quality claims touted in your marketing materials. Are they accurate? Do you deliver? Think also about the kind of expectations your customers have about the experience they want when they buy from you.
Here’s your opportunity to take the lead: Set expectations from your side–then meet or exceed them. Be crystal clear about deadlines, the time required to rectify issues, the potential add-on-costs, and similar factors. Being up-front can help you better understand the needs of your customer and reduce the risk of mutual frustration.
8. Failing to follow up
One common misstep is not following up with your customers. Is your product hitting the mark for them? Did your project perform as expected? Even if the answer is no, you’ve opened the door for a new conversation and an opportunity to learn how to improve your offering.
Following up can be as simple as an automated email or as personal as a call from the business owner. Find the practice that works best for you and your customers, and you may be surprised to see a spike in retention and active brand evangelists alike!
7. Forgetting to ask for repeat business
A slight variation on the follow-up is the direct ask. Chances are, if your customers have a good experience, they’ll purchase from you again.
Or perhaps they’ll point you in the direction of another prospective customer.
Consider offering your first-time clients a next-purchase or next-project discount. If you’re completing a big project, be proactive about a follow-up proposal that showcases your abilities as an ongoing strategic partner.
6. Failing to reward loyalty
Customer loyalty can be recognized financially, such as offering “frequent-flier”-type rewards. Or, you can opt for something a little more thoughtful, like sending a unique gift or hand-written notecard for an added personal touch.
Loyalty can be built or broken at every touchpoint in the customer lifecycle. Does your customer-facing staff greet repeat customers in a warm, professional way? Does your team retain knowledge about your client over time so that working with you never feels like a “do over”?
Customers like doing business with companies that make them feel like they’re more than just a number. Explore new ways of thanking customers for their business and acknowledging where you’ve been together and where you’re going.
5. Being (only) a commodity
If you don’t add value to your customers—or fail to create a personal rapport for that matter, you risk being seen as a commodity. Your offering becomes a service chosen based on price and features, making you an easily-replaceable part of the pack.
So how do you avoid being seen as a commodity? Demonstrate your value by creating meaningful connections.
Get to know your client’s favorite sports team or reach out when you hear about a big accomplishment in their professional or personal life. Connecting with your customer base humanizes your company, making customers more “sticky” and can validate their decision to buy from you – even at a premium price point.
4. Ignoring the chatter
There are many platforms today where customers can tell others about their good and bad experiences. It pays to monitor review sites on an ongoing basis and really listen to what people say, the bad and the good.
Negative reviews pose an opportunity for you to make things right with disgruntled customers in a public forum—flex your customer service muscles here and let people see you for the customer-centric business that you are.
3. Being non-analytical
It can be tempting to rely on anecdotes or “gut sense” when evaluating your product and customer service experience. But doing so opens you up to missing some truly valuable information and insight. Back up that intuition with a little hard data and you’re off to the races.
Make sure your data analysis extends beyond measuring operational expenses and ROI. Ask questions to gain insights, such as:
What percentage of your current customers are first-timers? How many have been with you for a year or more? Is there something bringing your customers back? And how can you create an even more effective strategy based on the customer lifecycle?
Evaluate the data and share the insights with your customer service reps, sales, and marketing teams to create content, experiences, and product enhancements that will further benefit your current customers.
2. Missing the heart connection
It’s easy to assume that people make business decisions based on rational criteria, yet studies show quite the opposite. Some 90% of customer decision-making is emotional, regardless of your industry. That’s why world-leading brands like Coca Cola, Apple, Nike and others spend millions of marketing and advertising dollars annually. They’re investing in emotional connections to draw like-minded (or like-hearted) people to their brands.
You have an opportunity to stand for something that your customers care about. Whether that’s a social cause, a set of beliefs or even a shared sense of humor—take the time to understand the connection between you, your product or service, and your ideal customers.
1. Not having a plan
The absolute fastest way to destroy customer retention is to leave it to chance. If you want to keep your customers coming back time and again, you need a plan. Make it simple. Include some measurable data-points, so you know what success looks like. Put it in action, then watch your sales and customer retention metrics blossom.