“Branding is simply about winning and keeping customers.” – yellowfishes.com
We know for sure that retaining customers is a lot easier than gaining new ones. Sure a company must increase its business by gaining new customers too – this is an indispensable part of any business. However, if a company is constantly replacing customers that leave, its resources will soon run dry and the company could face closure. Retaining existing customers is essential since they would have already placed trust in a company, bought its products, and provided feedback and comments. Existing customers are easier to sell to – especially if a company re-launches a product or introduces a new product / service. By retaining customers, a company would be in a better position to establish its trustworthiness and authority in the market, and gaining new customers would be a lot easier.
While retaining customers is critical, it is important for a company to do so without spending too much / beyond a budgeted sum. How can a company retain its customers to a point that they become a reliable and steady source of income, ensuring stability and long-term success, with spending extra? The most obvious thing to do for any company would be to treat existing customers with respect and importance always. It is never acceptable to ignore them, take them for granted or neglect them while trying to gain new customers and attending to other aspects of the business. Existing customers are real paying customers – those that have placed their trust in a company and spent time, effort, and money with the company – they ought to be treated like celebrities. Without these existing customers and their business, a company could soon go under in the harsh and unforgiving business environment of today.
The most obvious way to retain customers would be by preventing them from leaving. A company that would pay close attention to its customers, would be able to understand them better, and hence would be able to notice any signals that could indicate possible chances of them leaving. A company would obviously need to monitor a customer’s history, buying patterns, interactions with the company, use of the product or service, and other such details connected with the customer’s association with the company. For example – a previously regular customer may have not provided any business for months at a stretch – this could be a sign that they either would be considering leaving, or would have already started spending their money with a competitor. By monitoring a customer’s interactions, a company could take remedial action and possibly ‘save’ their customer – preventing them from leaving.
In the process of retaining customers, a company must first know which customers are the most profitable, their ‘value’ to the company, and reasons for which they might leave. Once a company knows who its most valuable customers are, creating a list based on the purchases they would have made since they became customers. If the frequency of buys, and amount spent on each seems to be on the decline, it would be an indication to take action instantly towards understanding the reasons and possibly preventing their ‘departure’ from the company. In doing so, a company would display its interest and commitment towards its retaining customers, which would be sure to have a positive impact on the customers. When a company checks back on customers, asks them to comment / provide feedback, and takes special care to ‘pamper’ them, customers usually reciprocate with positive action.
Another important part of retaining customers is making concerted efforts to understand them and know more about them. The more information a company can gain about its customers, the easier it would be to customize its approach towards customers, and personalize service for them. Customers tend to stay with companies that know what they need and expect, and a company that is able to provide for their needs and expectations without them having to expend extra effort or investing too much time. Additionally, the information a company gathers about its customers, must be used also for rewarding the most profitable and ‘valuable’ customers – these would be the customers accounting for the maximum revenue of a company, and it would behove the company to allocate a budget and time accordingly towards retaining customers who contribute significantly to its bottom line. A special reward and incentives program for such customers would ensure that they feel appreciated and know that the company values their business. Keeping these customers happy, not only ensures that they remain profitable, but it would also help the company to develop strategies for cross selling and up selling.
One of the best ways of retaining customers without spending extra would be to ‘pump’ personalization into every aspect of the relationship – follow ups included. A customer’s situation, and other details could change during the association, and it would be beneficial for a company, if a company checked back with customers periodically for such changes, rather than making it the responsibility of the customer. In doing so, a company would ensure that customers felt cared for, and would have updated information on the customers, making it simpler to adjust strategies, customize offerings, and personalize the relationship even more. Making such efforts ensures that customers feel encouraged to provide more business, positive comments, and even well formulated referrals – all vital for a company’s success.
Customers know what they should expect from companies, and expect companies to make time to meet and interact with them. It would be necessary to schedule follow-up calls or emails, and even face-to-face interactions with customers. Simply scheduling time would not suffice – a company must remember to keep these ‘appointments’. By forgetting to call a customer when promised, or failing to show up for a direct interaction, a company would essentially be breaking its promises – one of the top reasons why customers leave a company. It does not require too many resources to keep promises to customers – a systematic follow-up system or a team dedicated to help keep track of appointments and complete tasks as promised, usually suffices. Keeping promises and delivering on time are two of the top ways for retaining customers without spending extra.
Retaining customers becomes a lot easier for a company that makes it easy and simple for its customers to conduct business. As part of the ‘simplifying process’, the most critical area would be making payments. By providing customers with several payment options that would be user friendly – swift and easy, a company would be displaying care for customers and concern for their time and effort. The easier a company makes it for customers to do business, the longer customers tend to stay with a company. No customer wants to expend more time or effort than required – especially for making payments. With the current technology and continuous improvements, it has become lightning fast to conduct safe and secure online transactions, and hence companies do not have any excuse for not ensuring the same kind of transactions for their customers.
A company’s passion and commitment towards customers give it the ability to gain market share and customers, which in turn helps to generate consistent revenue. Once the money starts coming in from a set of customers, it becomes extremely essential to for a company to retain these profit-bringing customers by treating them with utmost care and attention. Retaining customers without spending extra is all about doing what customers want and expect from the relationship with the company, and surprising them with acts of kindness and care. Customers are a company’s biggest asset – from a financial perspective, and hence retaining them is plain good business sense.