The customer is king - call them clients, users, patients or whatever; it's the reason you are doing what you are, without them you cannot exist.
According to the Harvard Business School , increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 to 95 percent.
Firstly, do you know who your customers are? Perhaps more importantly, do you know who your potential customers are?
Have you lost any customers, and if so do you know why?
Feedback is essential and and "survey" must be carefully designed to get the maximum benefit, because you don't just want to know if your customers are satisfied, that is only part of the story. Ideally any survey needs to allow the customer to be completely honest, therefore anonymous and preferably conducted by a third party.
Prove we care!
Look through their eyes.
The factors you should be looking for are:
- What do your customers see as an ideal service?
- How does your offering stack up against your competitors?
- Where can the biggest improvements be made?
- How can you track these changes?
Most organisations spend most of their effort gaining new customers and then neglect the lesser effort required to retain them. It is also often easier to regain a "lost" customer than to gain a new one.
There are a myriad of strategies to improve customer retention, below are some thoughts.
Make a small concession/gesture - it's the thought that counts but be careful, it should be seen as genuine and not just a ploy.
Take time to carry out after-sales; Check that your product or service was, at worst, satisfactory.
Ask your customer's opinion and, if possible, prove that you value it; ask them if there is anything they would like you to do that you don't already do - you may be surprised.
Make sure all "customer facing" employees are aware of how much latitude you allow them to "engage" the customer.
Don't forget the element of surprise. If any gesture becomes routine it loses impact.
Understand and anticipate their needs. Small efforts such as remembering personal details about your contact can be a useful bond and whilst they might realise you have noted down their birthday or that their eldest son has just gone to university and then used a computerised calender to remind you, it does no harm to wish them a happy birthday or to enquire how their son is doing. It still means you care about them and don't just see them as a sale.
If your customer base has an interest that is related to but outside of your product range, consider holding, sponsoring or supporting an event. Don't forget to invite them and others that might turn into new customers.
If you extend any amount of credit or are particularly reliant on any customer, regular credit checks can be a useful indicator of problems ahead.
Be assured that there are cowboy customers too - if you have experienced one of these, you are not alone!
Which marketing methods are right for your organisation depends a lot on your market (product, customers, location etc).
Whatever you sell, the Internet is a good place to start. First make sure that your organisation is listed in all the directories that are relevant to your product or service. Thoroughly check that your web site is optimised for search engines. If you are unsure about what is the best approach to this, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you have as much information as possible on your web site and that it is relevant. Be very wary of any "guru" who claims to be able to guarantee a good or even top search engine ranking, it can be an expensive mistake if it goes wrong.
Make use of social media but be prepared to put time in to update your information on a regular basis.
Use existing customers to increase the spread of your message - word-of-mouth is the best advertising you can get. Ask your customers for their stories and put these in your sales material (web site, brochures etc).
Use the press. If you have some news, let the press know, they always need copy.
Get an angle; sponsoring a local event or charity can get you noticed and, if done well, can really raise your organisation's profile. It can be a surprisingly cost-effective to support a person, event, group or organisation that needs help.
Give away your expertise. If your organisation has skills which you are not already selling, consider making these available for free. If this results in any sort of documentation, which might be of interest or use to others, try to get it published where it can have the most impact.
Be inventive - think outside the box. The aim is to out-market your competitors. It might actually be easier to do something creative rather than compete head-to-head with the competition using the standard channels.
Bryony Thomas of Watertight Marketing outlines some very useful principles for improving your marketing methodology.
As Seth Godin implies in his book The Purple Cow People don't pay much attention to brown cows - but purple cows? That's different.
Contact William at Premier Crew to investigate ways to find and retain more customers.