We say it time and again on this blog: it is much more expensive to gain new customers than to keep existing ones. Up to seven times more expensive, according to some reports. Clearly it pays to invest your time, energy and money in getting more so-called ‘repeat business’. Once you’ve got a customer in through your online ‘door’, most of the hard work has already been done. Most – but not all. If you rest on your laurels, you may well find that customers don’t come back just like that. This post will help you to figure out why you’re not getting repeat business – and show you how to turn things around.
Way #1: Follow up with your customers
Ever said to a friend: “Oh yes, we must meet for coffee sometime…” And then, despite the best of intentions, you found that the time slipped by so fast and it just never happened. Sure, you thought about calling her, but you never got round to it… It can be just the same for customers. A customer might have been perfectly pleased with both your product and the service you gave him, and fully intended to visit your website again. Yet somehow it didn’t happen. Days turned into weeks and then into months, and he never came back. A gentle reminder can be the very nudge that your customers need in order to get them to take action. Obviously you’re not about to start bombarding them with endless marketing materials to the point where you annoy them (Vistaprint is one company which is notorious for this) as this quickly becomes counterproductive. However, a well-timed message offering, like a genuine discount, can be just the little push that’s needed.
Way #2: Show your customers you truly care
You don’t need to be flat-out rude to put your customers off – all it takes is simply not caring very much. For you as a customer service representative, that phone call or email might be just one out of many you handle that day. And perhaps you’re not in a good mood. You’re distracted. Or your back hurts. Perhaps you’re yearning for lunch time. But for your customer, those few minutes of contact might form their one and only impression of your company. If the impression isn’t good – not negative, mind you, just not good – they might not come back. Some years ago, a friend and I decided to go to the Canary Islands. We booked a package holiday through a well-known website. Because we didn’t receive a confirmation email after booking and paying, we contacted the company after a couple of days to find out what had happened. The customer service rep confirmed that our booking hadn’t gone through. But did he help us to make another one? Uh, no. Instead we got a blasé line or two saying something along the lines of: "Oh, well, you can try to book that holiday again, or you can choose something else." I can report that we did choose something else – with another company altogether.
Way #3: Get out of your ivory tower
I’m not suggesting that you don’t know your field of expertise inside out. Of course you do – chances are you got into the business because you know your stuff. The question is, do you know other people’s stuff? If you own a webshop, for example, it’s important that you stock the sorts of things that your customers will buy. However broad your tastes are, it’s highly unlikely that you like everything that’s going to appeal to your customers. So be careful that the items you sell reflect the types of things that the market is interested in, and not just your own particular tastes. In addition, you need to know exactly what your competitors are up to, all the time. There are a number of reasons for this, one being that those ‘competitors’ are often good business contacts. Whether you have a friendly rivalry going on, or you are able to refer customers to each other, they are people in the same field as you are and you have a lot in common. In addition, keeping tabs on the competition means that you can keep your prices competitive, get ideas for new promotions and products, and even see what’s not selling well, based on their ‘bargain basement’ section. If you’re ready to start working on your customer retention rates, take a careful look at these three areas. They are essential elements of customer service – if you want to remain appealing to your customers, and keep them coming back to your site. And I’m guessing you do.