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Idea Box: Return Customers are More Valuable than New Customers
Sales Growth: While new customers are good, it takes a lot more work than earning new business from existing customers. Learn these key strategies to boost sales growth from your current customer base.

By Staff
Date Posted: 5/1/2014

                Many small businesses spend a lot of time and money seeking out new customers. While this is useful and important, it’s essential that attention to current customers is not overlooked in the process.

                Research has found that when customer retention rates are increased by just 5%, profits increase by 25% to 95%. Based on these numbers, a company can’t afford to not focus on finding ways to increase its number of repeat customers. The following is a list of strategies that have helped different companies increase their customer retention. Consider which ones could be implemented by your company to keep customers coming back.

                • Know your customers. People enjoy working with businesses that make them feel like people, not an account number. Ways you and your staff can do this include knowing and calling them by name, taking time to talk with them about what is happening in their business and life, and keeping notes about conversations to follow-up on later. But a critical part of this is understanding what they need that your company can offer.

                • Create a culture of customer service. This means that every one of your employees understand the importance of meeting a set list of customer service expectations. Workers should be hired based on their ability to meet these expectations and when someone fails to, it should be addressed immediately. Even workers who don’t deal directly with customers should be focused on providing excellent customer service.

                • Follow-up after an order is complete. Schedule check-ins with customers to make sure that they are happy with the order they received. Ask about the product quality, timeliness of the order, the service they received and if they need anything else.

                • Personalize promotions. Once someone buys from you, you know at least a little about them and their needs. Use that information to send them targeted offers that meet needs they have.

                • Fix problems quickly. Whenever a customer raises an issue, it should be your goal to resolve it quickly, within 24 hours if possible. If it cannot be solved that quickly, keep your customer aware of what is happening by giving daily progress reports and a high level of personal interaction. Never leave them wondering what’s happening.

                • Be available. Being able to talk with a live person goes a long way toward making customers feel like they are receiving service that’s worth their money. All staff should respond to voice mails, emails and messages from customers within 24 hours. When someone goes on vacation or a business trip, make sure that an auto-response on their email and their voice mail message both say when they will return and who to contact in the meantime.

                • Become a resource on the industry for your customers. Stay informed and keep customers updated on what is happening in the industry. Whether it is new pallet design capabilities, changing ISPM-15 requirements, mold prevention or rising lumber prices let them know what is happening so they can make informed decisions. If you receive information that could benefit a customer, pass it along, even if it won’t lead to a direct sale.

                • Go the extra mile. Some companies don’t realize what a difference this makes. Exceeding your customers’ expectations is a good way to build strong relationships. There are many ways to do this and build long-term loyalty, such as being proactive in pointing out potential issues or making a point of delivering an order early.

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