Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Many Happy Returns

What is your customer retention rate? It's a question that I was asked recently by the president of the group of radio stations I work for.

See, we've made a couple of changes this year, and a couple of our stations are almost sold out all the time, and the other two have room to grow.

So, as we look to sell out the two that have room for more advertisers, the first place to look is at former and current clients.

The Customers Rock! blog featured a post on this subject:

Growing Business the Old-Fashioned Way


Here is a blast from the past, a classic Customers Rock! post on taking care of your current customers. Thanks to @Foundora for bringing it back to my attention. Enjoy!

Many companies spend a lot of time and money on attracting new customers to their product or service. Much of the marketing budget is spent on mass approaches such as advertising and direct mail. While those media may have their place in attracting prospects, they don’t help companies with their most valuable asset: their existing customer base.

Taking care of existing customers is a fantastic, cost-effective way to grow your business.

Drew McLellan shares some advantages we have when we concentrate on the “old” customers. I especially like the first advantage he lists:

“They know who you are and trust/like you enough that they’ve done business with you”

How well is your organization doing in its communications with your customers? What would cause them to trust you and want to come back for more?

Take a brief break here and think about the last 5 communications you received from companies you (or your company) are doing business with. What kinds of touches were they? Interactions with existing customers tend to be one of the following types:

  • A bill
  • An upsell offer
  • A cross-sell offer
  • A renewal offer

While there may be some customer value in these actions, they tend to be more favorable to the company than the customer. In order to keep and grow existing customers, a proactive strategy is needed. Here are some great ideas from a few of my favorite bloggers:

Meikah of Customer Relations shares with us some insight from Jack Stahl, former president of Coca-Cola and CEO of Revlon, on how to strengthen relationships in a B2B setting:

Persist in offering value. Give consistent and routine attention, which shows that you are always interested in your customer’s business, in good times and bad. Also, have an ongoing dialogue with the retailer, when an opportunity arises to regain your business.”

Offering something of value to your customers is very important to furthering the relationship. If there isn’t value, customers may continue to do business with you for awhile, but the relationship will be short-lived. Keeping the communications line open, whether or not the customer has recently purchased something, is one of the keys to keeping up a conversation with customers.

Joe Rawlinson of Return Customer gives us some ideas on communicating appreciation with existing customers.

“When was the last time someone told you how much they appreciated you? How do you feel when you get a thank you note? If you’re like most, you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside. You smile. You feel a little bit better.

Don’t you think your customers would like to feel that same joy?”

Words of thanks are greatly valued by customers. They are a nice antithesis to all the sales calls and could actually make the next call more fruitful!

Rosa Say of Managing with Aloha tells us how to deliver on the promise of our customers’ dreams. She tells her readers about the art of creating loyal customers:

Managing with Aloha incorporates the art of Ho‘okipa to achieve a service and product delivery that is unparalleled in the dreams of your customers, turning them into loyal customers for life. When people feel they have experienced the ultimate in good service and in hospitality, they return for more of it time and again.”

Customer loyalty comes from more than just great products and services. The customer experience has a very strong influence on customer attitudes towards an organization. I love the way Rosa describes it above – an experience that makes you want to return again and again.

Other ideas on how to create meaningful interactions with existing customers:

  • Birthday cards/anniversary of start of relationship
  • Invitations to customer appreciation events
  • Asking for customer feedback, then acting on it and letting customers know the results
  • Customer apologies, where needed
  • Customer advisory boards

Which types of interactions you use depends on the company, it depends on the culture, and of course, it depends on what is important to the customer.

Finally, one can always use the element of surprise to keep relationships fresh. Here is an unexpected example from Bounce fabric softener shared in Andy Nulman’s blog.

Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

(Photo credit: cookelma)

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