7 Tips To Retain Your Customers

Now that you’ve learned how to build a first-class customer experience program by reading customer service 101, 201, and 301, you know how to attract the customer you seek. To keep that same customer is where the real work comes in.

Onboarding a new customer is, on average, at least five times more expensive than maintaining contact with your existing customers. A solid customer base is your ticket to bigger and better things! Existing customers are more likely to spend more money on any new products you introduce and a loyal customer base will not only grow but also uplift your brand into markets you never even thought of.

The good news is that, if you create a great customer experience from the very start, you will retain customers without much extra effort.

Retain customers with these seven strategies, including how to handle and retain customers during customer complaints. You may even turn the complaining customer into your biggest fan.

  1. Build a strong onboarding process
  2. Collect feedback frequently
  3. Surprise and delight
  4. Apologize when necessary
  5. Create a vision the customer can connect with
  6. Continue to innovate
  7. Learn how to retain a customer when handling complaints

1. Build a strong onboarding process

I covered part of this in an article about how to create a customer experience program. Trust takes time to build and a strong onboarding process is an important step in this journey. Set up a smooth onboarding experience using these tips:

  • Supply details and information about both the product and the buying process
  • Offer a seamless checkout process
  • Provide purchase confirmation and additional details on what will come next
  • Follow up on the things you promise in your confirmation email

The first contact you have with your new customer is the most important contact. The first contact is even more important than offering the customer a discount (before or after their first order), subscribing to a newsletter, referral offers, etc. A customer will decide if you are worthy based on that initial contact.

2. Collect feedback frequently

A customer needs to feel listened to. This not only refers to their contact with customer service (although that’s very important!), but also to any feedback they may have about your website, product, newsletters, etc.

If a customer gets the idea that you don’t care, they will move on. This relates both to new and existing customers. So, how do you let the customer know that you care about them and their opinions?

  1. Deliver good and personal service when a customer has a concern. Your customer service employees, when a customer calls in with a concern, need to be empathic, understanding, apologetic (when necessary) and have the drive and the options to go the extra mile for the customer
  1. Request reviews. Send personalized questionnaires and reach out on social media. The latter is an excellent low-threshold option for customers to get in touch.

A customer who feels seen and heard will feel valued and have more goodwill towards screw-ups on your end. They will be more willing to work with your employees to solve the issue and tend to stick around.

3. Surprise and delight

You can increase customer retention by offering rewards that surprise and delight customers loyal to your company. This can start as early as the first purchase. Offer credit (future spending money), discounts on their current order or possible giveaways. Depending on your product and market, consider:

  • Personalized discount codes they can use on their next order. Take a look at the average order rate and make the offer time-restrained
  • Point programs (each purchase earns points, which then can be used for freebies or discounts on future orders)
  • Refer-a-friend programs (a discount for both the friend with their first-time purchase and the customer who referred them to you)
  • Tiered base programs (the more you spend, the more perks you get, like free shipping, early access to new products, etc)

Another way to surprise and delight your customer focuses on the product you offer. Consider these two examples of small gestures that can create a big impact:

  1. You have a company who sells a specific product like baby clothes. Depending on the clothes size a customer orders you can often predict if they’re expecting a newborn, if their child is teething, etc. In this situation you could include a newborn-suitable stuffed animal, or a teething ring the parent can put in the freezer.
  1. Let’s say your company specializes in pet supplies. While onboarding you can ask about the name and the birthday of the pet(s) of your customers. A simple birthday card on the correct day can surprise a customer in a very positive way.

4. Apologize when necessary

Apologizing is a strong retention tool, when used correctly. Customers appreciate it when you take responsibility for a mistake you made, even if you can’t resolve it in the next five minutes. Let your customer service employees know that it’s okay to apologize.

5. Create a vision the customer can connect with

Having shared values with your customers is another way to connect with them. You began your company with a vision. If you don't have a particular vision now that your company has grown, you can easily choose a direction to focus on, like sponsoring a charity or becoming eco-friendly. With today's market becoming more and more focused on being eco-friendly, this is something customers (sometimes strongly) identify with.

6. Continue to Innovate

Continue to innovate, even when things are going well. This applies to the product or service that you’re offering and to the tools you use, the way you address your customers, etc.

Have you updated your processes and systems with new user-friendly technology? Are you offering best-in-class products and services? By continuing to innovate you will keep your customer base interested and connected.

7. Learn how to retain a customer when handling complaints

There is a major opportunity to retain a customer when handling customer complaints. Teach your customer service team the skills to turn a negative experience into a positive, retain your customer and possibly make them an ambassador for your brand. Best practices when handling customer complaints include:

Be sure to actually handle your customer complaints

Especially for a beginning entrepreneur, the tendency to ignore complaints can be big, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring your complaining customers.

Apologize to your customer and empathize

I’m not saying you have to take responsibility for any and all complaints that land in your inbox. A customer is not infallible and more often than not, they might have overlooked something or forgot to follow instructions.

If it’s clear that it’s something that went wrong on your end, however, don't be afraid to offer your apologies and understanding. It’s important that your customer feels heard. Simply acknowledging that something didn’t go the way it should’ve will create goodwill with your customer.

Offer them options

Offering your customer multiple options to resolve the complaint is never a bad thing. It will give them back control in a process where they felt frustrated and powerless. By offering several options within the company’s parameters a customer will feel better about the interaction, regardless of the outcome.

Follow through on communication

Personally, I’m a big fan of having one point of contact for a customer with a complaint. By having the same person go through the process with them, they will build trust, which is an important part of retaining your customer.

If this isn’t possible (perhaps due to employing part-timers or how you’ve divided up the work), make sure there is a system in place for following up. If you promised the customer you would contact them at a certain date for an update, for example, do so. By being punctual and keeping your promises (even if you don’t have a solution yet) you will build trust.

Remain friendly and open for contact

Assure your customer they may contact your employee or company again if they have  future questions or complaints. By remaining friendly during and after the issue has been resolved, the customer won’t feel like a burden and will retain a positive feeling from your interaction.

This should of course be the outcome of all customer service interactions, but especially with customer complaints, encouraging continued communication helps with retention.

Enjoy the benefits of a loyal customer base

A loyal, happy customer base will become informal brand ambassadors and increase organic word-of-mouth recommendations. You can’t buy that kind of positive support.

The most important thing to keep in mind with any retention is to remember that the customer is a person that wants to feel heard and seen. By treating each customer as an individual, no matter the strategy or the market, you will make great strides in retaining your customers and creating a loyal customer base.

I help businesses begin and maintain their customer experience programs. If you’d like some help with your program, send an inquiry through my Upwork profile and we can discuss the best options for your needs.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
Linda V.
Customer Service Manager
Roosendaal, Netherlands
Customer Service

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