The art of customer retention: Simple ways to keep and gain customers

Time is an extremely rare commodity for the consumer in this day and age. Many online stores and services are trying their hardest to ensure that their newly acquired customers come back for repeat business as well as trying to retain the ones they’ve got. I’ve broken down some fundamental points that should assist your company in keeping customers coming back to your site as well as promoting you through word of mouth.

James Dellar
Feb 26, 2016 · 6 min read

Your customers have a voice

Every consumer has a voice through social media; even those ‘non-influential’ opinions can lead your new customers to rethink their purchasing decisions. Whether they’re rating products, reviewing your service, sharing and discussing their opinions on your brand — you can gain some insightful information about customers perception by listening to your community. Remember that customers will always use their preferred social channels to comment and share. Do you know what these are, and if not, why haven’t you asked them? A simple 30-second customer survey could save your company thousands.

By spending more time talking to your new and existing clients you will get to see how they use your website and you’ll gain a better understanding of how to streamline your service. It would be beneficial to speak to customers who have left to help understand their reasons for leaving to stop this from happening again.

A great example of a company listening to their customers is Virgin Airways — they took the time to talk to talk to them to understand their frustrations and what would make their experience stress-free, and by doing so, they found out that everyone folds up their boarding pass and then struggle to find the relevant information at the time they need it. Virgin took this onboard and redesigned the boarding pass so their users could easily access relevant information similarly to a folded book.

Businesses need to take the same approach to give more to their customers and this mentality will change the way that content is shared, products are marketed, and brand relationships will evolve.

What do they really, really want?

Surveys can be one of the most useful tools to find out what your customers need — if used correctly. If you’d like to find out about your customers think about your products, services or your brand, then ask them for their feedback. There are many free survey tools out there and when used correctly, they could serve as a fantastic way for you to push your company forward. You can even disseminate them through your site, dedicated email campaigns, social channels, and face-to-face if the user has time. If you wanted to, you could always sweeten the deal by offering 10% off.

A focused social media presence

If you haven’t already, you should sign up to the ‘main’ social channels, purely to protect the visibility and brand ethics of your company. I should stress that serving every channel could become problematic if you don’t have the staff to support them. Just because a company you view in high-regard uses Flickr — doesn’t mean that you have to — but owning your company’s name to protect your profile doesn’t hurt. A company putting up a Facebook page and hoping for likes as a marketing strategy has long gone. You need to drive people to these platforms for open-hearted discussions, both between themselves and with you, but only if they want to. It’s a two-way street after all.

To understand the importance of social media to your marketing strategy, I’d recommend watching this video (I’m aware it’s old, but it’s a good‘un):

With a high percentage of consumers trusting their peers for buying recommendations, social media is playing a large part of companies daily digital strategies. One customer’s voice can travel far and wide so showing that your company is there to support them through the good, the bad and mediocre, is a helpful way to invoke trust. Placing your brand at the heart of the community not only shows social strength, maturity, and trust, but it also shows brand advocates are willing to spread the word for free. Your social media shouldn’t be focused to only gain new customers, but to also look after the ones you already have.

Go above and beyond, then repeat

Saving time, money, and offering a great customer experience are things your company should be giving to every customer on a daily basis. Without doing this, how do you expect to have returning customers? If you do, then that’s great, you have an example of a satisfied customer, but is this every customer? Is one happy customer enough?

How can you take customer satisfaction to the next level — to customer loyalty and brand advocacy? Simple. By doing the above again and again for them. Your customers should feel like they’re loved, special, and that they have a sense of worth to you, your staff and your company. Once a customer feels this, then you have an advocate that will tell their friends, family, colleagues and this will bring you more customers.

A great thing to try with minor expenditure is to send a customer a bottle of wine, a pack of nice biscuits or chocolates, a discount, or even giving them your time–not because they’ve entered a prize draw, but because you value their custom. Think of the smile on their face when they open your ‘gift’. As the saying goes — it’s the thought that counts.

Doing something like this throughout the year to a few customers, will change them from a normal customer to a customer that is talking to their friends about you. Sometimes you have to look past what your rival companies are doing and stand out from the crowd. A simple and thoughtful gesture speaks volumes. Ensure that you contact them to ensure that they received the gift as this will ensure that they know that they’re special. You could even use their pictures, tweets or testimonials in your marketing campaigns and social media.

Trust is a powerful tool

Customers buy from companies they trust. If you’ve succeeded in doing the above points, you’re on the right steps to retaining your customers. Trust can be attained by a number of ways. A company’s lifespan can help ease the customer’s reservations by showing that you’ve been in business for a number of years. Using unbiased systems like Trust Pilot and Feefo also help to give a transparent picture of your company. A company’s road map is important as this gives you and your employee’s focus and drive, but how do you intend to reach your next business milestone without having loyal customers by your side?

Looking at the negative

Whether the feedback is good or bad, customers will use social media to get their voice heard far and wide. Dependant on the effectiveness of your support team (If you have one that is), customers may use social media to get their voice heard if they’re feeling like they’ve been neglected through your other contact channels. So being as responsive, helpful and as engaged as possible will help your customer feel cared for.

By giving feedback at every point of contact with the customer will feel like an action is going to take place. Instead of saying “I’m sorry to hear this. Can we help with anything?” (I actually received this the other day!), say “Hi David, email/call me directly and we’ll get to the bottom of your problem asap (give details)”. You need to show a level of urgency as well as repeating what they need to do and what you’re going to do after the call has ended to rectify the problem. If something is going to take two to three days, let them know that you’ll be in touch with them as soon as it’s been completed. By giving your customer a friendly and brief update at every step of the way they will feel supported!

It all sounds very simple, right?

You’re correct in thinking that. You should be engaging with your customers to show that you care, and once you show that they are worth something to you, they’d be more inclined to spend more time with you. To gain any engagement from your new and existing customer base you have to give them a reason to interact with your brand.

Thanks for reading and if you’d like me to share any other articles please let me know!

James Dellar

Written by

Creative director for award-winning agency @onespacemedia based in Cambridge, UK

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