It’s great to bring on new clients and grow your customer base, but the fate of your company lies, in many ways, with the customers you’ve already got.
Not only can their recommendations lead to new clients, but for many businesses a large chunk of sales comes from a relatively small amount of existing customers.
When strengthening your client base this year it’s important to keep everyone happy. Here are seven ways you can encourage customer loyalty whilst building new relationships in 2016:
Target millennials and the rest will follow
Millennials may not be earning as much as the generation before them, but they’ve used the internet to transform spending trends and have a huge amount of commercial influence as a result.
The great thing about millennials is that they’re the generation most likely to share your brand message with their networks – as long as they believe in your values and know that they matter to you.
Millennials seek authenticity in your values as a company and according to research by Barkley they spend money with brands that support the causes they care about.
Millennials are also used to self-service solutions; they expect your technology to just work with minimal need for human assistance, so be sure to invest in your customer-facing touchpoints.
While cash flow might not always allow for brand new systems, you can use an unsecured business finance loan over short amounts of time to cover one-off projects.
Be open and honest
With so much information freely available online, customers are now much more likely to research products and services before making a purchase.
With companies being held accountable for their actions more than ever before, it’s important to be transparent to build public trust.
Your website is your best opportunity to get this right from the word go. By detailing things like your material sources and manufacturing methods, being transparent shows your customers that you have nothing to hide and that you’re willing to answer their questions.
For example, outdoor clothing company Helly Hansen offers details of its Environmental Policy and high animal welfare standards on its site.
Including clear ways to contact the company also makes the buying journey easier for the consumer and gives the impression that Helly Hansen offers high quality customer service.
Source: Helly Hansen website
You can also build trust and loyalty with your customers by keeping them up to date with any changes you make to your products or services.
By offering a good mix of news, whether you’re announcing an achievement or apologising for a mistake, your company will be seen as trustworthy and customers will feel more inclined to offer feedback or assistance to help your business run more smoothly.
Turn that frown upside down
One of the main reasons businesses lose clients is as a result of bad customer service. As consumers we’ve become spoiled for choice, so if a customer experiences poor service they know they can simply take their business elsewhere to a company that offers a better experience.
Customers are also more likely to warn their friends about companies who let them down and word of mouth can either enhance or harm your company’s reputation over time – but even if you receive negative feedback you can still turn it around.
Resolving an issue can turn an unhappy customer into a lifelong fan, as facing problems head on shows that your company is committed to making sure everyone has a great customer experience.
It’s not ideal to handle a complaint on a public domain, and you should give customers every opportunity to contact you privately first.
However, even public conversations serve a purpose as potential customers can see that you put things right and will be more likely to buy from you.
For example, ASOS has a dedicated Twitter handle purely for monitoring mentions of ASOS and dealing with happy and unhappy customers.
Prevention is better than cure and you can avoid upsetting customers in the first place by regularly asking for their opinions.
Gather feedback and make a note of common complaints so you can work on reducing them.
Keep your customers in the loop
87% of consumers want a two-way relationship with brands, but only 17% believe companies are delivering and 66% feel they have a one-sided relationship where companies ask them to share without giving anything in return.
It’s easier than ever to have a conversation with your customers and for many consumers there’s no longer any excuse for a business to simply take their money and never interact with them.
Your revenues rely on your customers, so whether feedback comes from customer service, social media or focus groups, use it to make everyone feel loved and action any requests within your power.
You should also ramp up your personalisation to make your customers feel really special, as a growing number of consumers say that a personalised brand experience often drives them to make a purchase.
Use your customers’ previously bought items to tailor campaigns and utilise data from your website and email analytics to identify new product opportunities.
Social CAN drive sales
Customers who actively engage with a brand’s digital communities are proven to buy more from them than those who don’t engage.
While that may sound like common sense, many business owners still don’t recognise the potential of social media in capturing and retaining customers and fail to get it right.
Your blog and social media shouldn’t just be seen as a way to promote your products, get more followers than your competitors or serve as an unmanned online “presence”.
Instead, it represents an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in your target market, build relationships and give your company an identity.
An active community with lots of peer reviews reassures potential customers that their money will be safe, so even if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to creating original content you should at least take some time each day to talk to others in your niche.
A good way to do this is to share and repost thought-led content by others, being sure to tag them with your own commentary; most people will respond to you and spark up a conversation.
It’s also great if a customer has taken the time to write something kind about you, as you can thank them by replying or sharing it with your followers:
Source: Indie Lee Twitter
For small brands without big advertising budgets, this is free and unique promotion that you should take advantage of.
Regardless of company size, more and more brands are making their customers feel loved on social media and reaping the rewards.
Offer ongoing discounts and promotions
Introductory offers are great, but clients feel irked when they see your company offering amazing deals to new customers without ever rewarding their loyalty.
Not everyone will take advantage of every deal, but offering a steady flow of discounts, giveaways, competitions and added value offers will keep your customers coming back regularly to see what’s relevant to their interests.
For example, online store Naturisimo regularly runs discounts and free items with purchase across its social media and email channels, plus it has a section on its website where shoppers can select a free gift for spending over particular thresholds:
Source: Naturismo website
Streamline your customer service
Customers view your company as one entity whether they’ve bought something via your website, over the phone or in a physical store, and they expect to be able to get in touch with you in whatever way they choose.
Technology can either be the biggest help or the biggest hindrance in this and fortunately there are many ways you can improve your procedures.
Short-term wins include offering the same terms and conditions across all channels and operating a contact system with short waiting times and as few transfers as possible.
But even for a small business, keeping track of every interaction can quickly become messy.
Investing in multichannel ticketing software that organises your emails, website, social media, telephone and live chats in one place will not only please your customers, but save your employees time and money, too.
With millennials in mind, creating a self-service function for customers who prefer to figure out solutions for themselves is also a wise investment.
To grow and strengthen your customer base it should be pretty clear that good service must be at the heart of your customer retention strategy.
While it can be difficult to measure ROI across channels such as social media and maintaining a blog, the results will speak for themselves when you find yourself drawing in new customers and enjoying repeat purchases from your existing ones at the same time.