Every customer you retain generates profit for your bottom line. Every sale you make to an existing customer comes at a much cheaper investment, when compared with acquiring new customers.
You simply cannot afford to lose existing customers. Why? According to Salesforce.com, there are more than a few interesting stats that will make you rethink your customer service process.
It costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retaining an existing one.
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.
A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience.
Just as products do, customers also follow a life cycle. There will always be a stage when a customer demands more attention than they used to! What should you do?
Give them that attention, before they start displaying signs of dissatisfaction.
Existing customers seldom defect because of price, or functionality. According to a study by research firm CRMGuru, “even though more than 70 percent of customers say poor service caused them to take their business elsewhere, business managers believe price to be a prime factor for defection.”
In this article, we’ll take a look at a few best practices that will prevent customers from leaving. I am not talking about steps you can take after the customer has already decided they are leaving you. These practical ideas have helped us improve customer retention by 25% over the last couple of years!
Treat Customers As Valued Partners
Elevate customer interactions to the ideal that they can be more than just problem solving sessions. Tell your customers about large scale product or service changes. Share a new product feature that’s in the works, and ask for their feedback. Discuss your major achievements, and your failures. Make customers feel that you genuinely want to talk to them.
Customer: “I really wish your product has X feature.”
Bad response: “I’m sorry, but we do not have this at the moment.”
Great response: “Oh that’s a great idea, I’ll put this across to our product managers. Thank you for your suggestion. I’ll be sure to tell you how this goes!”
Why is it a great response? You come across like someone who is paying genuine attention to actual needs, and who values the customer.
Never Leave Customers Wondering
It’s crucial that you never leave customers wondering whether you actually have a solution for their problem. Even if you do not have one, communicate.
Customers have a right to vent; especially if you’ve let them down. A phone call, or an email that says “we are working on it, and I will talk to you as soon as it’s fixed” is a great reassurance for even the most exasperated customer!
Clarity in communication is equally important.
The moment you say “as soon as I can”, there is a good chance that customer has already started thinking about trying a competitive product.
Share an estimated time frame and be as specific as you can. For instance, tell them the problem might take X number of hours to solve. If you do not have a solution within the promised time, call them up and tell them you are working on it, and it might take X more hours.
Always communicate. Be very clear in your communications.
Never Question Customer Expectations
If a customer expects your product or service to have a certain functionality or benefit, there can be numerous reasons behind it, such as:
Your marketing folks promised a bit too much.
Your competitor has that functionality already.
There’s a genuine need.
Be patient when the customer asks for something, or makes a suggestion. Tell them that you will find a way to accommodate their request, along with the steps you plan to take. It will make them realize you genuinely care.
But it does not end there. Follow through. Give your customer a call, tell them what happened — even when you could not fulfill the request. This is a great way to garner loyalty.
What’s even better? Offer an incentive for their suggestion, if the customer has made one. Thank them for their feedback with something tangible. This is bound to get you good word of mouth.
Be Honest When You Drop The Ball
Honesty, and transparency are crucial to cultivating customer relationships. Trying to cover up mistakes, or making an excuse when a customer complains can never go well. There is nothing wrong with accepting fault on your part, and apologizing.
Word of your honesty is bound to get around. Honesty also opens the door to sympathy, and the customer will be able to relate with a genuine problem (say, a technical snag). There are quite a few reasons to stay honest with your customers.
After you have apologized, communicate that you genuinely care and:
Send them a handwritten note with an actual human ‘signature’. All you’ve got to write is that you care.
Offer a discount, incentive or free trial and request feedback.
Reduce Customer Effort
The best way to please a customer is by doing something they were not expecting at all. Reducing customer effort is a great way to build the relationship and communicate that they mean more than just their wallet.
Three ways to accomplish this include:
If a customer is asking for help, then do not make them fill a form. Call them up, ask how you can assist.
When a customer needs help with a functionality, do not send a product handbook. Send them an email with steps involved, and screenshots attached. Do it for them if you notice they’re facing a problem.
If you notice a customer trying to troubleshoot, then do it for them. Call them, and tell them it’s done.
Being proactive is always better than being reactive. There’s no better way to tell them that you want to help and ultimately reduce customer effort.
Customer retention is just like the old saying: “Prevention is better than cure.”
This article has been edited and condensed.
Harsh Vardhan is the Head of Marketing at Hiver, formerly GrexIt, an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users. He’s an avid reader, a backpacker, and a rock music aficionado. Connect with @harshvgehlot and @hiverhq on Twitter.
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