It costs at least five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. Thus, focusing on retention strategies, not just sales, and marketing, is the most effective way to drive revenue growth.
The keys to retaining customers are showing your appreciation for them and creating memorable experiences. To do this, you must strategically put systems in place to ensure that every interaction with your company surpasses their expectations.
Here are four actionable strategies to create positive and memorable customer experiences.
1) Provide Friendly, Expert-Level Customer Service
The foundation of customer appreciation is world-class customer service. Without it, nothing else you do will impress your customers enough to retain them. Though it is expensive to maintain a team of expert-level reps, you’re almost guaranteed to yield an ROI.
In addition to increasing customer retention, you can also raise the price of your offering. 70% of customers are willing to spend more on products and services from companies who deliver outstanding customer service.
Here are some ways to demonstrate customer appreciation with exceptional service:
- Instruct reps to use a friendly, conversational tone and to be empathetic toward your customers’ challenges. People contact support because they’re confused, frustrated and/or dissatisfied with your product and those emotions often impact their ability to communicate what they need. Often, to effectively solve their problems and create a positive experience, reps must de-escalate the situation. This can be difficult so, periodically monitor their transcripts and coach them on ways to improve.
- Train your customer service reps to be experts in your product. Customers should be able to ask any question and immediately be given an answer or, only in the case of highly complex issues, be directed to someone who can provide a solution.
- Appeal to all communication preferences. Some customers prefer phone calls; others enjoy the convenience of live chats and social media while the remaining prefer to use email. Set up systems to give customer quick answers via all of those mediums.
- Give customers the option to speak with the same rep if they have additional challenges. Doing this can speed up the support process since the rep already understands how the customer is using your product and what actions they’ve already taken.
- Continuously improve via customer feedback. Whether you get the data from direct complaints or surveys, use every criticism to enhance your best practices.
Remember, developing a strong support team builds the foundation for you to start investing in more advanced customer appreciation strategies.
Read More: The Secret Sauce Behind Powerful Client Relationships
2) Surpass Your Customers’ Expectations in Surprising Ways
Creating enjoyable experiences is one of the most memorable ways to show your customers you appreciate them. To make customers happy, you must over-deliver. Research shows that happiness is relative to our expectations; we only feel it when we experience something that exceeds what we thought we were going to get.
If you deliver the same quality that your marketing and sales teams promised, most customers will feel neutral about your product/service. You simply met expectations.
However, if you surprise your customers with something that wows them, they’re going to be thrilled and remember your company in a positive light.
Here are some ways to show your customers you appreciate them and create memorable experiences:
- Send them exclusive discounts on offerings you know they’re interested in.
- Partner with other companies and give them free and/or strongly discounted products/services from them.
- Send handwritten notes to critical stakeholders on large accounts.
- Provide additional features than what people expected.
- Share how their purchase contributes to a cause your business supports.
The more actions you take to surpass your customers’ expectations, the more loyal they will be.
3) Promote Your Customers Personal and Business Brands
If you’re a B2B company, one of the most powerful ways to show your clients you appreciate them is to send them referrals. Not only does this make a bold statement that you believe in their offering but, it also adds tremendous value to their bottom-line.
During periods when you are unable to offer referrals, you can still show appreciation for your clients by promoting them on your social channels. Have your marketing team pay attention to when your clients are in the news for positive reasons and/or they’re trying to push out a message. When that happens, reach out and offer to share their posts on your marketing channels.
Clients won’t forget the impact you make on their business and, provided you maintain the quality of your product/service, they’re likely to become loyal evangelists of your company in return.
Alternatively, if you sell to consumers, you yield a similar effect by sharing user-generated content. Create a hashtag and encourage your customers to share photos/videos of themselves using your product. Then, share their posts at your peak engagement times.
Customers who participate either are or want to be social media influencers. Giving them exposure to your followers will boost their personal brand and shows that you appreciate their business.
4) Proactively Apologize for Failures
Only 4% of customers tell companies when they’re unhappy when they’re unhappy with a purchase; the remainder complains to their connections and switches to a competitor.
Instead of passively reacting to customer complaints, your product and/or quality assurance teams need to be always on the lookout for defects and areas of improvement and proactively reach out to customers to resolve issues before they abandon your company.
You should also follow-up with customers and directly invite their feedback using simple, one to three question surveys in exchange for discounts. Whenever someone gives a poor response, apologize, ask for more information, and suggest ways you can improve their experience.
Proactively apologizing for product/service failures may seem like you’re highlighting your weaknesses; however, it’s a highly effective way to retain customer trust. A study from the Nottingham School of Economics found that customers are twice as likely to forgive companies who apologize.
The key is to take full ownership of your mistakes and explain how you are going to prevent them from happening again. Research regarding apologies from Facebook, Wells Fargo, and Uber for their scandals found that consumers were more willing to forgive Uber because their new CEO directly acknowledged their company had made mistakes and took responsibility for making improvements.
Ultimately, creating outstanding customers experiences comes down to paying close attention to your customers’ desires and challenges and then surpassing their expectations, even following failures. It’s difficult and requires a significant time investment but, your increase in customer retention will ensure you yield a positive return.
About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.