Small Business Column: Customer retention

In this week’s column, Kehlan Kirwan from the Small Business Show looks at customer retention and why more businesses need to make this a strategic part of their business.

In Ireland we spend a lot of time trying to get new customers, but not enough time trying to hold on to them.

In a competitive environment, it’s essential to keep your customers on the right side of what you’re offering. This means developing a retention policy designed specifically at your usual customers.

A generally successful company will bring in 80% of its revenue from 20% of its customers, so here are some tips to keep your customer loyalty high.

Say it loud and proud

Letting the customer know what’s going on in your business is a simple tool to keep your customers by your side. Newsletters, social media, and mailshots are great ways to keep communicating your message to them. This doesn’t mean bombarding them with offers or advertising either. Informing them about milestones in your business or how you help in your community is part of the image. When you’re being successful and showing customers they are a key reason for that success, it can be worth more than a money-off voucher.

Think of the money

It’s not always about how much money you make but how much money you save, too. It costs far more to attract new customers than it does to keep customers. So remember that if you do something for some, do it for all. I got an email out of the blue from a company who gave me €5 off my next shop because they “appreciated the business we’ve done together”. Now €5 may not be a lot, but the gesture spoke more than the money. I’ll buy from them again.

It starts at home

Know your customers inside and out. From what they buy to when their birthday is, it’s important to know what your customers like. Use that data to produce a personal relationship with them. This information is invaluable, but be careful how you use the information. You want them to feel appreciated, not like they’re being stalked.

Exactly what it says on the tin

Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that when you have them hooked, you have them forever. Wrong. The customer service after bringing in a new buyer needs to be consistent and good. Remember you’ve asked them to buy into not simply a good offer, but your brand as well. That means your customer service should be the same whether they have been with you a day or a decade.

Be for real

If I have an issue, I don’t want an automated response on the phone or by email. I want a real person to help me. So be real with your customers and let them know that somebody is listening to them and their query. You don’t want to be known for being a ‘faceless’ organisation.


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