5 Customer Retention Strategies that work for Small Business

5 customer retention strategies that work for small business 

If you own and operate a small business, you appreciate what hard work really is. You spend countless hours each week managing the daily operations, and with any time you have left you’re busy drumming up new business. What if there was an easier way to grow your business?  You already know what it takes to acquire a customer, but do you know what you need to do to retain them?

By definition customer retention is an assessment of a business that measures how loyal its customers are. Loyal customers are important to a business since satisfied, retained customers tend to spend more, cost less and make valuable references to new potential customers.

Successful retention starts with your first contact and continues through the lifetime of the relationship.

Customer retention will provide stability, recurring income and the ability to grow because you have a strong client base.  Isn’t that what is most important to you?

Current clients are your biggest assets. Here are a few ways to focus on your clients during and after their initial visit and keep them coming back for more.

1. Loyalty programs

Have you ever seen a promotion for a business you frequent and wonder why as a current customer you can’t have the “new” customer discount? It can be irritating to existing customers. And if you’re always irritating your existing customers, you can’t ever expect to make long-term loyal customers out of them. We recommend re-evaluating this practice if it’s part of your sales arsenal. Instead, shift your efforts towards building a loyalty program where every promotion you offer applies to both new and current clients. Consider starting a client referral program where individuals can be rewarded for their recommendations to your business. You’ll find your clients can be excellent spokespersons via word-of-mouth advertising for your business. Get the most out of both programs by combining them. People who participate in loyalty programs are more likely to talk about your business to their connections because they feel more invested in its success.

2. Ask for client feedback and do something productive with it

As a self-employed professional running your own business, your reputation is everything.

Keeping a pulse on how clients perceive the service you provide is something that must be done on a routine basis. But don’t just send out a survey to check off the box. You will gain more value from the exercise by collecting the information and then sharing key results back with your clients. Tell them how you will be making certain adjustments to your business based on their feedback. For example, you may get feedback from clients that they have a hard time fitting in appointments in during the week. You might begin offering Saturday morning appointments. This would also give you an opportunity to follow-up directly with the clients who offered that suggestion. Let them know you value their input and you are willing to make the change and see how it goes. These types of follow-up conversations will strengthen your clients’ loyalty to your business. This continuous process improvement and feedback loop will keep clients engaged knowing that their ideas are appreciated and are causing positive change.

3. Be respectful of your client’s time

As a service professional it is critical that you give exceptional customer service.

Ideally, you have defined service standards that you are diligent in following. If not, you should create some. Make sure you pay particular attention to your managing your schedule and running on time with your clients. Everyone wants to feel that their time is just as valuable, or more so, than that of the service provider they are paying to visit. Many clients say their chief complaint about service providers is when they don’t respect the client’s time enough to start services promptly when scheduled.  Often times, these service providers will also penalize a client for being late while offering little more than an apology when they are tardy.  Don’t let this be you. Use scheduling software that will assist you, so you can be prompt and better manage your schedule. You will find that everyone, including YOU, will have a better experience.

4. Surprise them, do follow-up

Clients like to feel valued and remembered. Clients want to know that their interactions with your business are not merely financial transactions. Think about your interactions with other business professionals and how you feel about those who follow-up with you and those who don’t. You want your clients to feel good about you, so remember the Golden Rule.  Treat them how you wish other providers to treat you. Surprise them with genuine follow-up.  Start by sending thank you notes. Remember to recognize them on their birthdays. Look for fun and memorable ways to reach out. These encounters will make all the difference in building your long-term business relationships. Just be careful to avoid coming across as disingenuous.  It will do more harm than good if your clients dread hearing from you because they think you’re just looking for a quick sale. 

5. Build a community that helps your customers connect with each other

Did you attend a conference on a particular subject that others would enjoy learning more about? Consider hosting an educational session and sharing the information. Do you have connections with other local community experts (e.g. an accountant who can do a lecture around tax season?) You could have them come to your business and educate your clients. Clients will appreciate that you coordinated an opportunity to help them without asking for something in return.  You could host a business meet up or happy hour and allow your clients to meet each other and create a broader sense of community beyond your immediate business. Be creative in finding ways to bring your clients together for their own benefit – whether it’s business, pleasure, or both. Again, they will appreciate opportunities like this that don’t require them to give something in return and are not ostensibly done just for your benefit.  Even if people don’t attend, the invite alone reminds them about you and your business and improves customer retention.

Do you have customer retention activities that have worked well for your small business?

Share your insights and ideas.

 

This blog was originally posted here.

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