It’s wonderful to bring in new customers and fuel growth, but are you doing all you can to retain your current customers as well? Your database could hold the answers you seek.
Like most modern field service companies, you're likely (or perhaps soon to be) managing your customer records via a digital database. You may not be entirely paperless just yet, but you're still benefiting from perks like reduced costs, remotely accessible information, and the ease of processing data. However, are you really making the most of it?
Just like when you first set up your database, learning how to get the most out of the information you’ve collected doesn’t have to be difficult, but it's very important.
It won’t just help you to become more organised, it will also help you to keep your customers happy, improve retention, and encourage repeat business.
You’ll need to be systematic in your approach, and ensure you and your staff are diligent with your data management. Feeling up to the task? Let’s take a look at the points we'll cover in detail:
Stay with us 'til the end where you can find an infographic we've put together. The 6 Pillars to Customer Retention will help guide you and your staff in your efforts to grow and keep customers coming back. It's free to download and share!
1. Get on board with the idea of customer retention
We’ll start with a simple rule: you should be spending at least as much time on efforts to retain existing customers as you spend acquiring new ones.
New customers are great for growth, so you might wonder: “why bother working hard to retain old ones?”
In response, it's useful to consider the following points, from the Harvard Business Review, on the value of keeping the right customers:
- Just a 5% increase in customer retention can produce more than a 25% increase in profit.
- Your operating costs associated with serving repeat customers is lower vs establishing new ones.
- Return customers are more likely to spread positive word of mouth and may even more online reviews.
More profits, fewer expenses, and free advertising! What’s not to love? After all, an existing customer is already an ideal customer, and a loyal customer is often more willing to pay a premium to work with you: so put in the effort to keep them around!
Of course, you might say any customer is an ideal customer, so long as they spend money, but you know better than that. Figuring out who your ideal customer is and building an ongoing relationship can be the trickiest part, but it's made easier when you realise your database is a valuable tool to utilise.
Do you want to know which customers are most profitable, or how regularly someone uses your service? With a customer database, this information (and more) can be racked and used to guide the way you prioritise your workload.
By making sure you’re reaching out to these customers, learning from them, discovering their pain points, you're ultimately allowing yourself and your engineers to deliver the best care you possibly can, making it more likely for customers to return.
2. Get your database in order
Your data is only useful if it’s easily accessible, so keep it organised!
Think of your database like a garden; if you let it get overgrown and become a mess, you’ll end up with a lot of unattractive, useless information. However: take care of the space, and it will blossom, ultimately yielding valuable fruit. How well are you tending to yours?
Metaphors aside: an efficient database means you can record more than just your customer’s basic information, but every interaction they have had with your business—including their feedback and online comments (more on that later). Having this data at both your office staff and engineer’s fingertips will strengthen your company’s ability to deliver high-quality service.
After all, customers are more likely to leave for a competitor if they feel undervalued by their current provider: if you can utilise your data to provide a more personalised service, it's a step toward avoiding that happening.
Fortunately, a database can enable you to record and access this information easily, giving everyone accurate context to a customer’s situation and ensuring you're up to speed, quickly. You’ll impress customers through your professionalism and easily demonstrate the value that will see them return time after time.
3. Produce happier customers
Every business wants happy customers, but the truth is that sometimes a business loses touch with their customer’s needs. This can unintentionally produce unhappy customers. Thankfully, a strong database can give you the power to prevent this from happening.
As mentioned, you need to be able to track of conversations and keep on top of your relationships. After all, when you contact your bank, insurance company, or utility provider, are you surprised that they have a record of your interactions? No: it’s become an expectation and it allows you to get straight to receiving the help you need, which you value. It’s the same with your customers, and it makes them happy to work with you.
Additionally, it’s useful to keep in mind this basic principle behind customer retention: you need to give customers an incentive to use your services again.
For example, reward loyalty with discounts, or help them upgrade to an attractive contract plan. While upgrades can be a hard sell if your customer isn’t in the right stage of their journey, if you’re able to use your data to prove your track record of excellence and explain the benefits for the customer, then you’re already in a better position to win them over. Your service may sell itself and they'll be happy to listen.
In addition to this, an article from Software Advice, author Craig Boroski recommends that businesses use customer context to know when a customer would be better off with a more expensive service, like a contract. He argues that you’re more likely to have success with a customer-centric approach, instead of blindly trying to up-sell anyone and everyone to your contract plan. If you collect the data and establish a legitimate need, then context can take you further.
4. Make it easy for customers to reach you
Whether it’s private customers, landlords, or corporate clients, everyone appreciates convenience. Fortunately, thanks to your database, you can be easily learn how best to interact with your customers.
Everyone has a preference, after all. Some prefer to pick up the phone, others use email and, increasingly, people like to be able to book services online. Customers appreciate choice and to feel like they have some control: you can offer that to them.
As well as saving yourself admin headaches, an organised, accessible database can also be of benefit to the customer. Supposing, for example, the customer needs to produce a gas boiler safety certificate for an insurer, but cannot find it. If you have an electronic record of the certificate obtained from a previous job with that customer, you can simply send them a digital copy in a few clicks. How’s that for great service?
We shouldn’t forget to mention that a customer database will also massively reduce the amount of time you spend chasing after bits of paper as well. With everything collected in one place, it makes it easy to streamline communication (whilst also helping the environment).
This is especially true if your engineers can access the database with a mobile or tablet app. Service records can be automatically uploaded to a database so there are no delays between doing the work and invoicing. Additionally, documents won’t get lost, or forgotten in the back of the black-hole void of your engineer’s van!
5. Ask for—and act on— customer feedback
It’s one thing to make sure customers can contact you, but it’s another to make sure that you then listen. A great way to stop customer attrition—when customers stop using or break away from your company (also called churn)—can be avoided by the simple act of listening.
A great way to do this is to actively monitor customer feedback. With a database, customer feedback surveys are easy to execute. Say there’s a particular group you need to target, like the customers living on a certain street. Rather than going through a customer profile individually to add one at a time, you can filter your database to provide the information in a few clicks. Then, once you’ve distilled the data, use an integrated service like MailChimp to send a group email.
Specific, segmented feedback will also help you identify trends over time and perhaps see if an issue is becoming a regular occurrence. It could be an issue with engineer response times, the duration of jobs, or even the friendliness of your engineers. These are all factors that contribute to customer loyalty and you’re likely not going to know about them if you don’t take the time to listen.
According to an article from McKinsey & Company, "many companies struggle with collecting, analysing, and acting on feedback". For example, they may only gather customer comments through sales channels alone, but what about marketing channels, customer service calls, or from engineers in the field?
In addition, feedback should be passed on to employees who can actually do something with it. For example, engineers may know customers are complaining about the time it takes to complete a repair, but are they sharing this with you? The same goes for positive information as well: if people are happy with your work, let your staff know about it!
Ultimately, to make the most out of interacting with your customers, you need to act! Consider these methods to help out:
SurveyMonkey is a good platform for creating surveys; it’s also free for surveys up to 10 questions, with 100 responses.
Monitor social media for mentions of your business name:
Monitor review sites:
Review sites will not only let you know now how you’re being rated—it will help you respond to reviewers and maybe even convert haters into fans. Additionally, ask for reviews: you might even offer a thank-you gift as an incentive for them to help you out
Automate your Googling:
6. Stay in touch
Knowing how to interact with your customers is great, but it also pays to make sure you keep in touch with them between jobs. You do this not with pointless advertising spam, but by transforming yourself into a trusted adviser.
Service reminders are a useful mechanism for staying in touch, which can be optimised by using your customer database to keep a record of communications and track responses. A quick email or SMS reminder can make the difference between a one-time customer, and a customer who returns again and again.
Another method to consider would be producing a blog to write advice or cover topics of interest—which could be informed by the feedback you’ve collected from reviews and surveys—and so accurately tailor content for you customers. On top of that, you can then share your content by email and social media, and maybe even attract new leads. It all comes together, thanks to your database.
By adhering to these guidelines you will see the maximum impact on your company’s profitability and long-term success. If there's something in particular to take away from today's article, it's that a well-managed database is the best way for you to harness the knowledge you need to care for your customers and keep them coming back.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Accurate, accessible knowledge will give you the power to treat each one of them as you’d like to be treated; as individuals with particular needs. That’s why we've also prepared an additional infographic with 6 actionable pillars. Take a look at the tips to help you increase your customer retention and make use of your data. You can print it for your office staff or share it on social as well.
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