Customer Retention: Making Sure They Feel Heard

customersCustomer retention relies heavily on customer experience, which is why it’s so important for business owners to really hone in on what will make their customers have a positive experience when interacting with their business.

Regardless of the size of your business, you can all take steps to ensure our number one asset – our customers – are happy. Here are a few key tips to help you improve that experience for your customers:

Feeling Heard
One of the most important ways to keep your customers is to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, whether that is through daily/weekly/bi-weekly calls, meetings, or emails, you need to make an effort to touch base with your clients.  These are not sales calls, but rather opportunities to hear more about recent triumphs or challenges they are having in their business.  The more you know about their business, the better able you are to serve them. When you listen, a customer feels heard.

Good As Your Word
A common complaint of customers is that business staff do not follow through on promises they make. When you tell a customer that you will email them a document by noon, for example, and they have not heard from you by the next day, they might feel that they are not a priority. Every customer wants to feel as if they are the only ones you take care of, so when you say that you will meet a deadline or deliver a report and not do so, nor call to explain why, they are left in the dark and this is when they are telling others about the poor service they are receiving from your business.

Thanking Them Differently
When a customer has purchased your product or service, particularly an expensive one, be sure to thank them in appreciation, ultimately for their choosing to work with you and not your competition. A phone call or handwritten card with the express purpose of saying thanks will be appreciated, but think of taking it to another level through a congratulatory lunch or a basket of sweets delivered to their home or business. You will be remembered, talked about favourably to your customer’s contacts, and will likely receive repeat business.

Access and Availability
If the main contact number to your company goes straight to voicemail or is automated, this could result in an unfavourable experience for your customer.  You want to always make sure they feel that their business is important. You might want to consider:

  • Forwarding the main line to one of your customer service reps or an executive assistant
  • Make sure your automated system provides a directory with your employees’ names and extensions
  • Create a company-wide policy on returning voicemails in a timely manner e.g. calls are to be returned within 24 hours

With so much business happening online today, it is important to set out clear expectations for your customers in terms of how to reach you and when. You might want to consider:

  • Making sure your website clearly states your hours of operation
  • Adding a simple contact form on your site with a specified time that a company rep will respond, or adding an online chat for immediate answers to any customer questions
  • Adding a cell number to your email signature for any immediate calls
  • Creating an email policy for your staff to ensure emails are returned to customers in a timely manner e.g. within 30 minutes

The key to customer retention is to strengthen your relationships at every contact point and to be mindful of not alienating them along the way.

 

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A Sales Responsibility Checklist

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As a business advisor, one of the top issues business owners ask for advice on is how to increase sales.  My response is always the same: sales is at the heart of every company, and every employee is responsible for it, but in different ways.

No matter what size your business is, there are several touch points in a sales process, whether that is expanding your services with an existing customer or sales to a new customer.

When you are looking at your company’s sales, don’t just look at the person or people with “sales” in their titles; there is a role for everyone. Here is my checklist for sales accountability, that once checked off, will help you get a clear picture of where your sales infrastructure might need some help, and if everyone in place will help you increase sales.

  • Owner sets the sales strategy
    A sales strategy is usually written to cover a year and might include outlining the focus of what services/products target which customer, acquisition vs. sales growth with an existing customer, and long and short-term sales goals for each, as well as determining the sales cycle and which markets you will go after. A sales strategy lays out the steps and methods necessary for customers in different stages of the sales cycle.
  • Marketing supports that strategy
    Your marketing team or agency needs to create a plan to support this with marketing activities, including promoting your website, creating digital promotions, trade show collateral, social media, phone scripts, presentations, campaigns, sell sheets, banner ads or online advertising as well as list acquisition and management.
  • Execution by the sales team
    Although each sales person has to take responsibility for the execution of the strategy, they need to first understand the strategy and their role in executing it.  You’ll need to work with your sales team or with your Director of Sales to ensure they understand your strategy, and to explain which marketing tools they have to support their efforts. They need to know techniques to handle both customer acquisition as well as customer retention opportunities.  For example, if they are to execute a call-out campaign to new customers, make sure they understand the value proposition and have support materials at hand to provide to the client.
  • Walk the Walk
    From the person who answers the phone and your customer service staff to your technicians and any front line staff, every touch point with a customer or potential customer must be positive and genuine. Each interaction with a customer is an opportunity to make a lasting impression of the value your company brings to the table.  If they are spoken to in a valued and respectful manner, it could make the difference between investing further with your current services or allowing you to speak with them about your new services/products.

Share your sales strategy with your entire team as all your employees contribute, even in a small way, to helping your business grow.  Never underestimate the power of a warm greeting – it can lead to more sales than you might think.