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Customer Retention: How to Keep Them Coming Back in a Digital World

October 2016

Those in the marketing and advertising industry know, it is generally more expensive to create a customer than keep one. Customer retention refers to the actions companies take to reduce the number of customers they lose. There will always be a transition of clientele. The goal is to retain as many customers as possible. Repeat customers are a sign of good work and help your business grow. The question is, how do you create a loyal customers and keep them in a digital world when you may never actually see a customer? Throughout this article think about your favorite restaurant that you frequent. What makes you go back? Is the food? The service? The quality?
Below are a few suggestions about ways your website and your business practices can help you retain those great customers.

Building Trust with your Clients and Your Brand

Loyal customers don’t just come that way. You have to build them and invite them to be a return client. Building trust takes time and hard work. However, in the long run, it pays off – especially if your goal is to optimize customer retention. That favorite restaurant of yours has built up trust and you in turn continue to visit. Think of the first time you dined there. The first impression of the cleanliness, menu selection, friendliness of the staff and of course great food all added to your trust in their “product”. Think of your website as the restaurant.
Your business’ first impression is the launch pad in building a trustworthy brand. Customers come back to businesses with a trustworthy reputation. Thus, in a digital world your reputation, your brand and your website are intertwined in keeping customers coming back. Your website becomes that first impression for building trust and should reflect accordingly.
Developing a relationship with your client is a major key to customer retention. It starts with a website that is using current technology, is responsive, consistent, and user experience friendly. Understanding the needs of your customer helps in creating a website that attracts new customers is a start, executing what your website says about you makes them a loyal client. Listen to their goals, concerns, and communicate to them in a way that meets them at their level. Your goal is to help them achieve their business goals. Building trust with your client begins with your website and allows you to initiate the opportunity to make them a long-term client, now you have to execute the task of communicating.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

One of the top causes for lost customers is lack of communication. You have your brand, created a level of trust but you fall through on communication. This is like the wait staff who goes on a break and and all you need is ketchup. You wait and wait. Your meal gets cold, all because the wait person failed to communicate and ensure your needs would be met.
Your communication to a customer should be holistic. Before, during, and after your interaction/project/service. Be responsive and proactive in your approach. Seeing a comment, email or message a customer/client has left is important. Respond as soon as possible so the customers know that you’re listening to them. If you are going on vacation, or tied up for the day, set up that expectations with clients. Be proactive and advise status and provide details.
If you are an eCommerce website, make sure your responding purchase email provides helpful details. If you don’t have a responding email, get one. Give them feedback about how you’re going to meet their needs, solve their problem, or simply just a “thank you for your business” so they know you’re acknowledging them. If a client provides feedback, recognize this as an opportunity not an “issue”. Of course solve the issue the customer brings up, but also look know that it is valuable information on how to make your business better.

Product Quality

Safe to say, your favorite restaurant rarely provides a poor meal. More so, it might be a safe bet that the quality starts from the top down – Manager to Dishwasher. The entire team and process have a focus on quality. In the digital world, there are ways to help determine quality of a service/product.
Customer comments, rating systems, recommendations, social media and browser ratings. Quality is extremely important when focusing on customer retention. Remember the last time you paid for a product or service and it was just not what you expected? You might not always be able to meet every customers exact needs. But the fact that you care to even try to get it right will make a difference. Putting the customer first is not just when there is a problem. It’s a concept when implemented in every part of your business will produce quality. Not only will this give you positive reviews and recommendations, but your customers will want to buy more.

Accept ALL Feedback

There are many ways in the restaurant industry to leave “reviews”. The amount of a tip, comment cards, receipt reviews online, emails, rating websites such as Yelp and yes, by telling them directly. In the digital world, reviews are a big deal! 89% of consumers who view online products and services read the reviews and consider them to determine a businesses trustworthiness. Another 80% have changed their minds about a purchase based solely on the negative reviews they read.
Not only should you encourage feedback and testimonials, but look for it as well. Have you taken the time to look up your business online to find reviews? You may have a problem and not know it. Based on the statistics above, you could have a slick website and great SEO but no activity because of a poor review.
Think about the manager of a restaurant, the best experience you can hope for is that the wait staff noticed your food was slow coming out of the kitchen. Without a complaint from you, they automatically come to your table and apologize and offer you free dessert. WOW! But that isn’t always the case, unfortunately. Your customers leave comments or reviews to show you how you’re doing and what you need to fix. It is safer sometimes, in the digital world to express oneself in a more passive manner. Search them out, respond in a positive manner, take responsibility and make a change if you can. Other reading the reviews will see you are engaged and help in maintaining your reputation.

Customer Service

We all have that subjective rating scale in our mind about what good customer service is. A common scenario is at a restaurant where we “rate” the service in the form of a monetary tip. Think of customer retention as that tip. Another suggestion is to think about what you consider good service and pass the same service onto your customer. It isn’t rocket science, but it also isn’t automatic.
Making the customer first as a value in your company is a great way to start. Especially, if your business is working directly with your customer. This notion is an extension to the “customer is always right” approach to customer service. If your focus is about the customer, their needs, wants, and goals; if you gain their trust, communicate effectively and deliver an excellent quality product, it is difficult for a client to go anywhere else. Customer service is an attitude as well as action. Consider your intentions and conversation about clients. We all do it. Get that client that demands more than others. Regardless, they are still a customer and perhaps a great opportunity to review ways to improve your customer service.
This article certainly isn’t going to solve the complex formula of maintaining clients. The digital world offers it’s own unique barriers to maintaining clients. It is easy to search the internet for cheaper prices, similar product or service offerings. What sets you apart from your competition is your approach to your customers.

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