I have a confession. I have placed 118 Amazon Prime orders in the last 6 months.
Now, judging by the amount of cardboard in my garage alone, I should have known I might have a “problem.” Everything I’ve purchased were things that I could easily buy across the street, from protein shakes to batteries, cheddar bunnies to hangers, and, of course, all the things I’ll need for my new baby that’s coming in a few weeks. But my “problem” is really the product of Amazon’s secret sauce and why they’ve been able to retain me (an admittedly extremely fickle shopper) as a loyal customer.
What goes into this “secret sauce” of customer retention? Is there a recipe for taking a business model and product from good, to one that customers can’t live without? As marketers, we know that we have to keep delivering value in the form of content, entertainment, education, and services well after the initial transaction in order to keep customers engaged and our brand top-of-mind. But customer retention goes past simply staying top-of-mind. It’s about understanding your customers deeply and ensuring that no matter where they are in their purchase cycle, you’ve got their back. This is what great companies have in common: a customer culture where everyone feels ownership of the customer experience—essentially living by the quote “customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.”
Today’s buyers are more likely to switch (brands, vendors, providers) than ever before, regardless of whether they’re a millennial or boomer. However, taking these steps towards building a customer culture in your company can make a big impact on your customer retention and grow your loyalty base:
Step 1: Develop a Process
Do you have a process for dealing with the positive and negative responses you receive from customers? Step one to building a customer-centric culture is to get your house in order because if it’s messy, everyone on the Twitterverse will hear about it. Okay, so maybe it’s not necessarily Twitter, but today’s customers are not shy about sharing both their positive and negative experiences with a brand. Your plan will be unique to your business, your product or service, and your support structure, but it’s critical that everyone in your organization fundamentally understands your policy and process for handling customer feedback.
As you develop your customer response plan, keep these things in mind:
- Take the time to listen to your audience.
- Address their issue with respect and timeliness, but appropriate humor also goes a long way (you are talking to a person after all).
- Don’t shy away from responding where they are, especially in the social arena.
Step 2: Frame Every Interaction as an Opportunity
Seize every interaction with your customers as an opportunity to make them happy. The top three reasons why customers switch brands are cheaper pricing, rude staff, and too many mistakes. This means that every touchpoint with your customer is important, especially when you consider the impact that retaining that customer can have on your business. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of revenue comes from 20% of your customers.
With this in mind, here are three things to remember as you work to create excellent customer interactions:
- Offer promotions and discounts for your most loyal customers to keep happy customers, well, happy.
- Build your customer culture and teams with people who share the same values. Fanatical care for the customer can be built into your culture, so think about the different ways you can build it into yours. In some cases, this means that everyone spends time working customer support as part of their training, while in others, customers are the heart of every story the brand tells.
- Understanding your customers before they tell you something went wrong is critical. Having a centralized view of customers and coordinating their experiences allows you to avoid spamming them and lets you speak to them personally, with relevant messages.
Step 3: Nail Your Customer Service
As the face of your company, your customer-facing teams are the front line in sometimes tense situations. Their response can make or break you in the eyes of your customer.
Arming your service team with the right tools to resolve issues can make a huge impact on your customer retention:
- Create a channel for service teams to relay customer feedback. Obviously, poor product design or experience will create some unhappy customers, but having a feedback loop from your customer teams to the appropriate contact internally will allow you to actively address and log these issues.
- Develop an arsenal of resolution tactics. A representative that can’t solve a problem can just make a bad situation worse, so make sure that your service teams have a robust arsenal of resolution tactics.
- Be prompt. No one likes hold music, so don’t torture your customers with lengthy wait times. Your customers are people and most people don’t love wasting their time on hold, so make their service experience as seamless as possible.
Want to learn more about how to bottle your own secret customer retention sauce? Check out our slide deck, Customers Are Your Prospects, Too to discover how retention, loyalty, and advocacy drive revenue and should be every marketer’s biggest focus.