Customer and employees in coffee shop
Retaining customers is a key factor in a business's success, and costs much less than attracting new clients. — Getty Image

Businesses large and small can find it challenging to turn first-time clients into repeat patrons. But increasing customer retention by just 5% can generate more than a 25% growth in profit. And, the success rate of selling to an existing customer is up to 70% versus as low as 5% for a new customer.

To keep your clientele happy, prepare to shower them with attention, encourage feedback and provide incentives for their repeat business. These general approaches can be accomplished in myriad ways. CO— asked three customer retention experts for advice on how businesses can improve customer retention rate and grow sales.

Find out what your customers are worried about and provide solutions.

Linda Henman, owner of Henman Performance Group, said there’s no substitute for phoning or emailing clients on a regular basis and asking questions so that you can learn and address their needs.

“Because I keep in close contact with my best customers, I know their businesses well and can anticipate what they are likely to need, sometimes even before they know they need it,” she said. “I often ask a question like, ‘What are some of the challenges you’re facing?’ or ‘How is [X] likely to affect you?’ Sometimes the solution is a product or service you provide. But even when that doesn’t happen, a willingness to help them builds both trust and rapport.”

For instance, Henman recently phoned a financial services client and learned that his company was encountering difficulty with determining risk functions, assigning responsibility for each task, and identifying how to develop talent for each function.

“I then researched what similar companies and other industries are doing about risk. Before long, I created articles and newsletters on the subject that helped this client as well as other clients in various markets,” Henman said.

[For more information on customer retention, see: How to Boost Customer Retention and Create More Repeat Business]

Instead of sending a standard promotional email, aim for a more personalized message centered around that customer’s purchase.

Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle Bronto

Create a post-purchase email marketing program.

Sending automated email messages to recent purchasers or clients can enhance their experience with your brand and boost consumer satisfaction, recommended Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle Bronto.

“Instead of sending a standard promotional email, aim for a more personalized message centered around that customer’s purchase,” he said. “There are many types of messages you can send, and they can vary based on the consumer.”

For example, you can develop a series of messages designed exclusively for first-time buyers. This message can thank them for their recent purchase, reward them with a coupon toward a future purchase, provide tips for getting the most out of the product or service they bought and offer customer service contact information if they have any questions.

Messages geared to repeat patrons, meanwhile, can also include specific product recommendations, reorder reminders, refer-a-friend promotions, gift reminders, a request for feedback and an honest note about how much they are appreciated.

“Sending post-purchase messaging reinforces your company’s commitment to the customer, creating a more personal business-to-consumer relationship. And this connection alone can be enough to drive repeat sales,” said Zakowicz.

Improve customer service via social media.

Treating social media as an extension of your customer service is worth the effort, as social media has become the method of choice for many consumers to interact with businesses today, according to Jacob King, SEO team lead with Volusion.

“Customers are more likely to contact you on social media with questions or concerns before they call or email, because social tends to be faster and more responsive than other options,” King said. “But being that social media interactions are public for all to see, you need to treat each communication with the utmost care and consider how neutral third parties may view these interactions.”

Make it easy for and encourage your customers to post feedback and suggestions on your social platforms. Then, assign one or more team members to check and respond to these posts regularly.

“Be open and responsive to all criticisms. Remember that businesses that dismiss complaints and handle concerns rudely risk losing that customer along with anyone else who reads the negative feedback,” King added.

Additionally, acknowledge customer comments and thank them for their feedback. Be timely with all communication, and own up to mistakes. For customers with a less-than-stellar experience, follow up during and after the process to show empathy and genuine concern. And, if necessary, offer a discount or other perk to make things right.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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