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Do you have a plan for retaining customers? What does it take to create customer loyalty, the kind of bond that makes customers stick with you, even when their favorite sales representative, hair stylist or financial advisor moves on? Even when your prices change? Or when the extra 10 miles between your store and someone else’s means they spend an extra half-gallon of gas to reach you? Here are some tips.
1. Know Your Customer Base
Do you know who your customers are? Customer bases are made up of different demographics, with different needs and with different motivators for shopping with you. Profiling your customers can tell you a lot about how to keep them.
Then take it a step further. Find out not just who your customers are, but what they think. When was the last time you did a customer survey or conducted a focus group?
The more you get to know the unique demographic and psychographic makeup of your customer base, the more you are able to adjust products and services to respond to their unique needs and the more likely you are to hang onto their loyalty.
2. Make it Personal
Shift from mass mailings and generic communications to 1:1 print communications as much as possible. This should go beyond “Dear <<name>>” and include content driven by demographics, demonstrated preferences or past purchase history. The goal here is not just to let your customers know that you know their names, but to increase the relevance of your communications to their lives. Large online retailers like Amazon use this strategy to great success, shouldn’t you?
3. Spread the Communication Around
Some companies assign each customer a specific customer service representative or sales consultant. This creates a special relationship between customer and sales rep that can be invaluable. The downside is that this relationship can become so valuable that, should the sales rep leave the company, your customer might be willing to leave with them. For this reason, encourage your customers to have multiple contact points within your company. Try to avoid relationships being through a single individual.
4. Increase the Frequency
Stay in communication with your customers on a regular basis, not just when there is a special promotion or event. This is the idea behind monthly newsletters and “tips and tricks” postcards, especially those personalized to each recipient’s individual needs. This develops a relationship that creates a value beyond price and convenience and keeps your company top of mind.
5. Reinforce and Reward Loyalty
When customers are loyal, let them know that you appreciate it. Send them a thank-you once in awhile. Then reward them for that loyalty. Send them special “loyal customer” discounts, personalized to their unique habits and preferences whenever possible.
Food for thought… Would you be loyal to an auto dealership that offered great services and charged a fair price? Would you be more loyal to a dealership that offered these things and sent you personalized alerts 30 days before state inspections, recommended maintenance and other important service dates and then provided you with a financial incentive to bring your car to that dealership?