Happy customers will become returning customers. Returning customers boost sales and increase revenue. And retaining happy, returning customers will always cost less than attracting brand-new ones who have never shopped at your business before.
The secret to achieving customer retention is to keep your existing customers happy. But when your competitors are also committed to keeping consumers happy, you will have to go above and beyond consumer expectations to outshine the competition and garner real customer loyalty.
The competition within all industries has become cutthroat in the digital age. Lockdown measures that have been put in place due to the pandemic have gravely complicated matters, and retailers are now faced with nearly inconceivable challenges. Those challenges, however, are not impossible to overcome.
In this article, we will get back to the basics and walk you through the fundamentals of gaining customer loyalty despite the unintended economic war that has been waged against the world and your small business in the name of saving you.
1. SHARE YOUR COMPANY VALUES
Retaining customers and fostering customer loyalty are more than possible. Take a breath and let that sink in. Yes, a dark, oppressive cloud has rolled in, but the silver lining is that this cloud will be the force that unites consumers with your brand. At no other time in human history has building relationships been more important. After nearly a year of habitually covering our faces with masks, avoiding "unnecessary" human interaction, hiding away in our homes, and regarding one another as contagious, the need for authentic human connection and regaining our collective sense of humanity--which is our birthright as human beings--has never been stronger. There is a universal, undeniable thirst for solidarity churning among Americans and people the world over, and imposed isolation stands as a threat against quenching that thirst. Your business can offer consumers the community, solidarity, unity, and humanity they're yearning for. In these troubled times, we all want to lean on those we can trust.
Rather than present your business as a "savings haven", which can only speak to a consumer's wallet, now is the moment to represent your company's values as part of your brand, which will speak directly to the heart of the consumer. By sharing the mission statement and values of your brand, you will encourage shoppers to connect with the deeper humanity that your business stands for. American psychologist, Carl R. Rogers, once said, "That which is highly personal is most universal." This sentiment absolutely applies to the way retailers like yourself can convey your brand's values to the general public, as well as to your customer-base. Share who you are, no matter how unique your story is, and trust that people will relate, because they will.
2. PROVIDE EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE
Providing excellent customer service today does not resemble what excellent customer service used to look like this time last year. If your customer service representatives are still flying on autopilot and using the same "scripts", today's consumer is going to regard them as soulless, out-of-touch robots. Case-in-point, the mother of one of our loyalty strategists was recently on the phone with the customer service department of the IRS to address outstanding matters relevant to a prior tax year. The representative provided the mother with a fax number as a means to send additional paperwork to the IRS. "You want me to fax the info?" "Yes," she was told. "I don't have access to a fax machine," said the mother. "You could try your local library," the representative suggested. "The library has been shut down for months." "Try an office supply store," she was told. "I'm not supposed to leave my house for two weeks. There's a pandemic happening. Can I email the info?" She was told, "No, it must be faxed."
While this might sound like a satirical Saturday Night Live sketch, it wasn't. The representative was following protocols that stand in direct opposition to reality. Those policies and protocols had not been updated nor redesigned to accommodate a world in which some people have literally locked themselves in their homes. As a retailer, if you don't revise your customer service policies, protocols, "scripts", and strategies in a way that fully acknowledges the changed world we live in, then you run the great risk of triggering a kind of cruel cognitive dissonance across your customer-base. In other words, you're going to lose valuable customers. Every aspect of your customer service operations, from the user-friendly interface of your ecommerce store to the curbside pickup service to the cadence your employees use to take orders over the phone, must be grounded in today's reality and structured to accommodate the hardships that today's reality has inflicted upon us all. The customer service of your company is perhaps the best opportunity to demonstrate the humanity of your brand, connect with consumers, and foster a deeper sense of customer loyalty through relationship building.
3. COLLECT SURVEY DATA
One of the best ways to build a connected relationship with your customers is to give them opportunities to be heard. When you take customer feedback into consideration and use constructive criticism to improve your operations, customer retention increases. This is where customer surveys come in. By conducting customer surveys, you can collect important data that can be used to develop even better services and experiences at your store. Unfortunately, worthwhile customer feedback can be difficult to solicit. Generic surveys turn customers off and lengthy ones are often abandoned by the participant before they're finished.
It's important to keep your surveys short and personalized, and if you can offer participants an incentive for completing the survey, such as a discount code or raffle prize, all the better. Consumers are busy, and worse, nowadays they feel like they spend enough time staring at a computer screen. If your customers suspect the survey will take too much effort to complete, they aren't going to bother with it in the first place. The most successful surveys ask for a 1-5 star rating and include only a few multiple-choice questions that are tailored specifically to areas of your business you would specifically like to improve. It also helps to send feedback requests immediately after the customer has completed a purchase or had an interaction with your sales staff or customer service department. By collecting feedback right away, the transactions will be fresh in the customer's mind, which will result in better response rates and more accurate feedback.
Connect the feedback you collect to your products, services, and employees, especially if the critique is negative. There's a lot you can do to improve your business based on the customer surveys you conduct. Take note of trends. Talk to employees who have received negative comments and be sure to pass along the glowing reviews about your staff, as well, and reward employees when their work performances are stellar.
As we mentioned with sharing your company's values and providing excellent customer service, be sure to acknowledge the times we're living in as part of the survey questions. For instance, your survey questions could include:
- How can our products, services, or delivery methods be improved to make your life easier during these unprecedented times?
- What can we do to earn your loyalty?
- How can we meet or exceed your expectations in the future?
Further, when asking about specific products and services, offer multi-choice answers, such as:
- How well does our product meet your needs?
- Very well
- How would you rate our delivery service overall?
- How would you rate the value versus cost of our products?
- 5-star value for rock bottom prices
- 4-star value for a moderate cost
- I got what I paid for, which wasn't much
- I'm willing to pay someone to take this product away
Now more than ever, it's vital to conduct customer surveys and apply constructive feedback that will improve your business and brand. And when you discover happy customers, don't forget to ask them to write online reviews.
4. ESTABLISH AN EXPERT-LEVEL BRAND
Another well-kept secret among customer loyalty strategists when it comes to improving customer retention is utilizing the power of expertise. What do we mean by that? In the digital age, you can be more than a retailer and business owner. You can platform your brand online, establish a presence on social media, and regularly upload expert-level content to an active blog on your website. If you operate a pet supply store, try starting a weekly blog that covers pet-related topics like the ingredients to look for in the healthiest dog food and how to build a DIY cat tree at home. You don't have to have earned a Ph.D. in your chosen industry to share your insider knowledge about your given field.
By establishing that your brand comes backed with expert information, you will promote customer retention. Customers have a proven tendency to choose experienced, knowledgeable brands over novice ones. As a business owner, do what you can to demonstrate that you can support all of your customers' needs and educate them in every area of your industry. If blogging isn't your strong suit, consider the following:
- Create demonstrational or tutorial videos about your products, services, and common issues that your business can fix, and upload them to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and Instagram
- Create an e-book that's a guide, how-to, or educational booklet, and publish it on Amazon as well as make it available for free download for anyone who signs up for your newsletter
- Use social media posts to show any awards you or your business has won
One of the greatest benefits that social media provides business owners is the ability to shoot live, personal video that can be viewed in real-time. This technological feature offers an opportunity for community despite the new "contactless" society we find ourselves in. Take advantage of live video and live comment chats, and host these kinds of tutorial, Q&A events online regularly, as a highly personal tactic to forge relationships and improve customer retention.
5. OFFER A LOYALTY PROGRAM
This one is actually no secret, or at least it shouldn't be. Loyalty rewards programs massively improve customer retention if they're executed correctly. Digital customer loyalty rewards programs that include a mobile app are a great way to stay in touch and communicate with customers anytime, anywhere. So, if we agree that loyalty programs definitely lead to increased customer retention when they're used properly and regularly, what we really need to know is how can retailers get the most out of their loyalty programs?
Fortunately, we've dedicated entire articles to this very subject, because the hows, whens, and whys are extensive. Be sure to check out Ways to Reward Loyal Customers, How to Promote Your Loyalty Program to Your Customers, and 8 Tips for Creating a Successful Loyalty Program in 2020 if you'd like to get into the nuts and bolts of building an incredible customer loyalty reward program for your retail business.
For now, let's look at why implementing a customer loyalty rewards program at your retail store is among the top 5 secrets for customer retention. The following are the benefits of having a loyalty program:
- Offering rewards points makes customers feel valued
- Loyalty programs provide actionable customer insights that retailers can leverage
- Earning points prompts customers to spend more
- Redeeming points encourages repeat purchases
- Using a loyalty program helps you stand out from the competition
- Retailers with loyalty programs garner more customer referrals
- Enrolled customers are encouraged to leave reviews
The loyalty strategists at Loyal~n~Save are always available to discuss how a customer rewards program can improve customer retention and increase revenue at your store, feel free to Contact Us at any time!
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.