by Gabriel Bristol, president and CEO of Intelicare Direct
Here’s a harsh reality. Providing a great product or service at a fair price is no longer enough to keep customers coming back time and time again.
That’s bad news for businesses because repeat customers make for a great return on investment (ROI).
Let me explain. Most businesses know how much it costs to bring customers in the door.
For example, if a small hardware store spends $200 in a neighborhood newsletter and gets 10 customers from it, then they know their “cost per lead” is $20. If each customer spends $20.00, the hardware store broke even on the ad. The problem is, no business ever wants to just break even. But, if those same 20 customers become loyal customers, and come back again and again, each time they buy a hammer or spackle the ROI becomes much more attractive.
So how does a company get repeat customers? How do they break through the din of competition? Well first they must recognize the importance of customer loyalty and then follow these 5 steps:
1. Give great service.
Customer loyalty is fickle when customer service is lacking. To avoid this, make sure the customer is dealt with promptly and courteously. Listen to their needs and meet them as efficiently as possible. Customers will remember this, but they will remember bad service even more. What’s worse, customers are twice-as-likely to share a bad experience on social media as they are a good experience.
2. Be quick to resolve issues.
Not every product works exactly right and sometimes paid services don’t meet expectations. Accept that when the customer’s expectations haven’t been met, you must work hard to make sure the issues are resolved to their satisfaction. Begin with a sincere apology and an assurance that you will make it right. They will remember this and they will feel like their purchases are safe with you next time.
3. Keep in touch.
Gather contact data on your customers when you can, and keep it current. Reach out to them with special offers or new products and services, or just send them a birthday card (Hallmark’s funny birthday eCards are a great option). Use any excuse to keep your company in their minds.
4. Reward loyalty.
Every once in a while, treat a loyal customer with a free product or special discount just for being a loyal customer. You’ll be surprised at the good will this will engender.
5. Thank your customers.
Chances are you have competitors in your category and that means your customers have options. The fact that they chose you, whether or not because of your pricing or reputation or convenience, is something that you appreciate, so show it. Thank them. Thank them every time for choosing you and let them know in words and deeds how important your business is to them, regardless of whether they’re your smallest customer or your largest.
When you factor in how hard it is to get customers in the door or on the phone in the first place, it makes sense to take just a few extra steps to keep them happy and coming back.
While you can’t count on customer loyalty, you can count on this: if you’re not working hard to keep your customers, you can bet someone else is working hard to take them.
Gabriel Bristol, president and CEO of Intelicare Direct, is one of today’s most versatile CEOs, having led remarkable turnarounds for several large corporations as well as helping establish rapidly growing start-ups. He has a long track record in successfully managing highly diverse employee populations, dramatically increasing sales and customer retention and his fierce commitment to improving customer service. @Gabriel_Bristol