POST WRITTEN BY: John Rampton of Entrepreneur.com
As most marketers have experienced at some point, it’s one thing to hook customers, another beast completely to retain them. Improving customer loyalty should be a priority, or those customers you worked so hard to convert could vanish before you even know what happened.
To avoid that, here are 25 ways to better your company’s customer loyalty.
1. Share your values.
To build a strong relationship with your customers, you have to share their values. According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board of 7,000 U.S. consumers who said they had a brand relationship “64% cited shared values as the primary reason.” In fact, shared values are “far and away the largest driver.” If you want loyal customers, you need to tell them what your brand stands for.
2. Provide excellent customer service.
Sounds obvious, right? But, it deserves mention again because excellent service is what creates lifelong customers, avoids negative word-of-mouth and differentiates you from the competition. This is how a company like Zappos has created such a loyal following. But, how can you improve customer service?
For starters, listen to customers and address their concerns a timely manner. Make it easy for customers to get in touch with a representative. Clearly display an email address, phone number and social media account. You have to “wow” them by going above and beyond.
3. Be transparent.
There will be days when things don’t go as planned. Instead of denying the problem, be honest with your customers about the bad news. When Buffer had a security breach in 2013, the company old their customers about the situation, provided updates and addressed concerns immediately.
4. Create a sense of community.
With so many social media platforms, there is no excuse for not creating a community. Communities are an effective way to start a conversation with your customers and encourage user-generated content. For example, you can ask customers to share pictures of them using your product and sharing it on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
5. Get their email addresses.
One of the easiest ways to keep in touch with customers is through email. Ask for addresses after completing purchases so you can keep customers updated on new products or follow-up with them after a sale to ask how was their experience. This information can be used to improve customer satisfaction and keep your current customers happy.
6. Use social proof.
Aileen Lee, partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, describes social proof on TechCrunch as “the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something.” It’s a great way for new customers to learn about your product or company.
Typically, brands achieve social proof in the following five ways:
- Expert – statistics that are shared by a credible source.
- Celebrity – celebrity endorsements, think William Shatner and Priceline.
- User – reviews left by customers on sites like Yelp or Amazon.
- Wisdom of the crowd – recall McDonald’s famous “Over 1 Million Served” sign.
- Wisdom of your friends – inviting friends to play a game on Facebook.
7. Exceed expectations.
You’ve probably heard the cliché that businesses should “under promise and over deliver”. You can accomplish this by simply exceeding expectations. If you state a customer service rep will get back to the customer within 24 hours, and the rep gets in touch within six hours, that’s exceeding customer expectations. As Noah St. John states perfectly on the Huffington Post, “Do what you say you’re going to do.”
8. Don’t neglect existing customers.
It’s incredibly easy to forget your existing customers when you’re busy trying to reach new customers. To avoid frustrating your loyal customers, make sure that your product or service doesn’t diminish over time.
9. Admit when you make a mistake.
Mistakes happen and customers have many platforms to share their experiences with your company. Don’t get defensive or sensitive if you get called out on something that was your fault. Instead, use these platforms to take responsibility and resolve the issue.
10. Have the right employees.
Employees are extremely important for improving customer loyalty. Employees who buy into the culture are more likely to share their excitement with friends, family and customers that they’re assisting – like this email from Zappos. Make sure your employees have the proper training and tools to enhance the customer experience.
11. Get personal.
Studies have proven that personalized emails have a transaction rate 6 times higher than impersonal emails. This could be addressing them by name, sending them a birthday greeting or an offering a coupon on the anniversary of when they became a customer. Customers appreciate the personalized messages that you send them because it can help create an emotional bond.
12. Be an expert.
Let’s say you’re buying a new television, but have some questions. Would purchase the TV from the company who answered all of your questions or the company who couldn’t give you an answer? You’re probably more likely to support the company who addressed all of your concerns. If you want to attract and retain customers, you should become a reputable and trusted expert in your field by making sure employees are knowledgeable and sharing your expertise on question/answer sites or writing blog posts.
13. Say the right words.
Research has proven the right words or phrases can help motivate customers. According to Kevan Lee, via Buffer, the five most persuasive words in the English language are: You, Free, Because, Instantly, and New. If you use these words in headlines, email subject lines or calls-to-action you can increase the chances of converting customers.
14. Offer incentives.
You want to give customers a reason to keep coming back. And, that’s when incentives come into play. It could be something as simple as a discount on their next purchase or giving them a free drink after their tenth purchase.
15. Ask for their feedback.
How do you know what customers like or dislike about your products? How do they feel about your customer service? If you aren’t aware of this information, then how can you make the appropriate changes to make your customers more satisfied? Whenever a customer completes a sale, ask them for their feedback through an email questionnaire or an online survey on your website.
16. Be reliable.
Earn a reputation for being consistent and dependable. This means if you promise a product to be delivered within 48 hours after the purchase, then make sure delivery occurs within that time frame. If you promise 24/7 live customer support, then make sure that is a promise that you can keep. Since launching my online invoicing company I’ve had to make sure that everyday I’m keeping up with my customers and deliver what I promised. If something changes or your business changes due to unforeseen changes, let your customers know and be very open with them.
17. Spend more time with customers.
Talking with your customers can serve several purposes. For starters, you can find out what made them become customers of yours in the first place. This information could be used to generate future content and marketing campaigns. You could also ask them to share their experiences for testimonials or case studies. This ensures you’ll keep your current customers happy because you’re taking the time to listen to their needs or hear their stories.
18. Make life easier for your customers.
You shouldn’t always be worried about making a sale. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to marketing than just pushing your latest product or service. For example, if you own a home improvement store, than you could create YouTube videos or send out monthly newsletters that contain DIY home repair tips.
19. Anticipate problems.
There will be times when disaster strikes. Instead of scrambling to address and correct this problem, you should be prepared by implementing anticipatory services. Udemy uses an example of a bank that informs customers when their checking account is about to go below the minimum balance. Customers will receive a text message instead of getting hit with a fee after the account goes below the balance.
20. Be flexible.
While it’s important to have policies in place, you also have to remember that every customer has their own circumstances and problems. Let’s say that you have a 30-day return policy and a customer wasn’t able to return the product because of the weather or they were out-of-town. Instead of refusing to accept the return, wouldn’t it make sense for you to accept the return and offer either a refund or store credit?
21. Use automation.
Automation comes in handy because it can help you save time and keep customers in the loop. For example, you could send new customers an in-depth guide through an email after they have purchased a product or service. Not only does this answer all of their questions, it frees up some of your customer service reps.
22. Make it easy to communicate with a real person.
While technology has made it easy for customers to find the information that they’re seeking regarding your product or service, that’s not an excuse to completely hide behind it. There will be times when a customer has to speak with a real-life person. Make sure that your contact information is easily located throughout your website or that you have a click-to-call button on your mobile site.
23. Ask for a review.
In this day in age, reviews are as important as ever. Research has found:
- 88 percent have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.
- 85 percent of consumers said they read up to 10 reviews.
- 72 percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
- 88 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Don’t hesitate to ask customers to leave reviews and thank them for taking the time to review your product or service.
24. Surprise them.
Remember, it’s the small and unexpected things that keep customers coming back. One of my favorite examples is what a Rackspace rep did during a lengthy troubleshooting session. The employee overhead the customer mention they were getting hungry; “So I put them on hold, and I ordered them a pizza. About 30 minutes later we were still on the phone, and there was a knock on their door. I told them to go answer it because it was pizza! They were so excited.”
25. Offer a loyalty program.
Go beyond a reward system and initiate a loyalty program for your customers. Kendal Peiguss suggests on HubSpot that you try one of the following tactics for an effective loyalty program:
Simple Points System – Customers earn points which can be used for a reward.
Use a tier system – Provide a small reward and increase the reward over time.
Charge for VIP benefits – Think of a service like Amazon Prime.
Support programs around your customer’s values – Customers aren’t just concerned with monetary rewards, show your support for programs that they support.
Coalition programs – Team up with a related company for deals outside of your company.
Make it a game – Who doesn’t enjoy playing games?
Scratch loyalty programs – Build an awesome product, reward or benefits from the get-go and loyalty will happen organically.
Building a loyal customer base helps in several ways – it saves you from spending marketing dollars to constantly find new customers, and it helps build a loyal customer base. Remember, it is the little things that matter.
POST WRITTEN BY: John Rampton of Entrepreneur.com