In our last post, we explained why you should be spending at least as much time on efforts to retain existing customers as you spend acquiring new ones. The basic principle behind a customer retention strategy is to give customers reasons and incentives to come back for more.
That obviously starts with providing a good service, but these days customers have plenty of other options so they may shop around to find an even better deal from a competitor. The worst way to respond is to reduce your pricing. Instead, make customers feel that they got good value for what they paid. Here are five top tips on how to gain customer loyalty.
Under-promise but over-deliver
Set the right expectations. Over-promising might win you a customer but they are unlikely to come back. By contrast, a great way to foster loyal customers is to go beyond the expectations you originally laid out in your quotation and terms of service.
For instance, if you state that your maximum response time for an emergency call out is two hours, try to get to the customer within 30 minutes.
Make it easy for customers to evaluate your service
Customer attrition (or churn, as it is sometimes called) can be avoided by simply listening to your customers. They appreciate it. Customer feedback surveys are easy to execute and they can be invaluable for learning how your service is performing in relation to expectations, but you have to act on it in three ways:
First, you should monitor customer feedback on an individual level, because customers have different priorities. In fact, a mantra for any business should be to treat each customer individually, one at a time. See what a particular customer thought, and take the appropriate action.
Second, use your feedback to identify customers who are at risk and respond. If a customer is unhappy about something, it's better to know rather than let the problem fester. Be ready to go the extra mile to ensure that a profitable (or potentially profitable) customer is happy with your service.
Third, you should look at trends over time to see in which areas you have improved and which need closer attention. It could be response times, time to completion on jobs or friendliness of your engineers. These are all factors that contribute to increasing customer loyalty.
Stay in touch
It pays to stay in touch with customers between jobs. Do this by being a trusted advisor – don’t simply spam them with pointless advertising. For example, if a new type of boiler or insulation technology is on the market, be the first to inform customers who might be interested.
For landlords and corporate customers, be the first to provide practical advice on any new regulatory or compliance requirements. This approach is often termed “content marketing” – a type of marketing where you build a reputation as a company that has its finger on the pulse and helps customers to stay on top of things.
In addition, service reminders are a useful mechanism for staying in touch.
Whether it is private customers, landlords or corporate clients, everybody leads busy lives and appreciates convenience. Provide a variety of channels for them to contact you: some prefer to pick up the phone, others use email and, increasingly, people like to be able to book services online, since it makes them feel they are in control.
Keep a record of how customers like to be contacted in your customer database.
An incredibly useful way to increase the lifetime value of loyal customers is to upgrade them to contract plans. These are based on a monthly or annual subscription payment for you to take care of their boiler or cooker (private customers), properties (landlords and estate agents) or industrial equipment (companies).
Contracts lock the customer in to your company and provide recurring revenue streams – but they are a hard sell unless you already have a proven track record of service excellence.
Building customer loyalty is not easy because clients tend to remember negative experiences. If you have over-delivered on the past 10 visits, but you under-delivered once, your customer is more likely to give this as a reason for trying out a competitor.
However, if you build up a solid and loyal customer base you will also significantly reduce the risk of customers publicly criticising your business and the impact if they do so.
If you manage these online systems well, they can help you to build your reputation – people also respond to positive reviews!
The task is also made much easier if you systematically grow and maintain a customer database, recording not just service records but every interaction with a customer, including their survey feedback and their comments online. Need a hand with this? Try out our free customer management kit by clicking down below.
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