Customers are the lifeblood of any business. They're the reason for keeping the shelves stocked and the doors open. As you look to grow your business, customers may also be your biggest asset. Give them a positive experience, and they'll be more inclined to recommend your business to others through word of mouth and online reviews. It's difficult, but not impossible to understand how to apply what we learn from customer reviews and turn it into customer retention. It all starts with taking customer relations seriously.
1. Be present.
Little courtesies go a long way. Welcome each customer into your business with a friendly greeting. If you're in a retail setting, pay attention to ensure customers don't wander confused through the store without assistance.
If you're in a service industry, take the time to explain your services to the customer. A good first impression will put your customers at ease and show you care about their experience.
2. Ask for input.
Why guess what marketing campaign or new product will be most successful for your business? Involve customers in your most fundamental decision-making processes by soliciting their input.
Set up a recommendation box at your front desk or point of sale and hold a drawing for a coupon or freebie to encourage participation. Post a poll on social media to see what products most interest your customers.
By asking for customers' input, you'll create a two-way conversation that shows your appreciation for their patronage and generate excitement for new goods and service. Plus, you'll learn more about your audience, which will help you offer the right products or services for the market.
3. Create an experience.
Give customers a new way to experience your business. Organize a cooking class with your head chef or a DIY workshop with your creative employees. Host a weekly running or biking club to explore the community.
As consumers continue to value experiences over things, giving them a unique activity will demonstrate you understand what matters to them.
4. Share customer shout-outs.
Social media is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to connect with your audience. To show your appreciation for customers, give them a shout-out on your business's profiles. Ask customers to share their photos and videos involving your services or products with a unique hashtag relating to your business. Then share or repost their content, giving them credit in the caption.
Customer shout-outs keep your profiles engaging with new and diverse content, and they encourage customers to spread the word about your business by sharing photos or videos with their social networks.
5. Reward customer loyalty.
Here's some good news: When it comes to customer loyalty programs, it's best to keep it simple. The average customer belongs to 14 customer loyalty programs but only has the capacity to engage with seven. That doesn't mean it's too late to launch your own, but you should make it easy to use and understand. Give customers a punch card or have them collect receipts. After five or 10 trips, reward them with a discount or freebie.
6. Encourage referrals.
Similar to a customer loyalty program, you can reward customers for referring their friends and family to your business. Many software programs allow businesses to track referrals easily and reward their referrers, but you can also take a lower-tech approach.
Give customers a pair of coupons when they leave your store. They can give the small cards or fliers to their friends, co-workers, neighbors or relatives. Hopefully, they'll refer new customers. At the very least, they'll have a coupon they can use to return to your business. Either way, you'll have a simple reward for customers that builds retention and loyalty.
7. Share seasonal perks.
Depending on your business location, customers may be walking into your business directly from the outdoors. If that's the case, keep weather conditions in mind and create a comfortable experience for those in your business. Depending on the season, you could offer customers a chilled bottle of water or a warm cup of coffee.
8. Pay it forward.
Whether on a bargain or for a good cause, customers want their dollar to go further. Help them feel good about the money they've spent with your business by letting them put a portion toward a cause of interest. When customers pay for a product, meal or service, show them a list of local charities or campaigns and ask them to select an organization to receive a portion of what they’re paying you.
9. Step up when it counts.
Inevitably, your community will fall on hard times. When customers experience a low point in their community, your business can help restore hope. Keep your doors open later to accommodate more customers or lend a hand to local relief efforts. You'd likely pitch in without this advice, but it's an important reminder that the strength of your business can be a symbol of hope.
10. Be flexible.
When customers do return, make sure their second experience is just as positive as their first. If that return trip involves returning or exchanging merchandise, keep your eye on the proverbial ball. You want customers to feel confident your business can solve their problems, whether it's finding them the right product, registering them for the right service or taking a defective or unnecessary item off their hands. Flexible return policies and quick-thinking customer service make all the difference.
Building customer relationships requires business leaders to consider customers' feelings. By showing them some love, customers will feel happier and more confident in your business. They deserve it, after all, since customers keep your business bustling.