In a business environment that's best described as difficult for a lot of businesses—particularly when the issue of brick-and-mortar retail comes up—one thought on many of those business' minds is how to get more customers in the door. A thought that's a little less often considered, however, is how to keep old customers coming back in that same door, and that's a thought that requires a little extra.
Recently, the Philippine Star's Francis J. Kong took a look at some of these concepts as expressed by Barbara Wold, an expert in the field of customer service, and the result of that look generated five tactics to put to use in terms of keeping those regulars regular, as well as the cash flow said regulars represent. Wold elaborated, however, delivering perhaps the ultimate statement of a repeat customer's value: the chances of selling to an existing customer are between 60 and 70 percent at any one time. Selling to a new customer happens between five and 20 percent of the time.
So how do you keep old customers in the fold and buying? There are several principles to put into play. One, keeping in touch with the customers allows for a means to showcase certain points that would drive an old customer's interest, particularly in terms of special deals. While many companies put contact measures like newsletters to work, a particular focus on specialized offers and custom content can really help drive old customers to make purchases and maintain brand loyalty. Next, a focus on customer service can really help. Since poor customer service figures into about 70 percent of customer losses, shoring up this potential loss point can help maintain old customers' purchase patterns.
Third, consider a response mechanism to customers that starts with listening, then followed up by talking. When a business listens to its customers, and acts on what those customers are saying, that works as proof—not always sufficient proof but proof nonetheless—that that business is concerned about its customers, a measure that often helps keep old customers in the fold, and works against the “poor customer service” phenomenon noted previously.
Fourth, offering a loyalty program is a great idea. People do have a tendency to encourage others to do business with a company said people already do business with, especially if the business does well. Who hasn't stepped in when someone's expressed a desire to find a good restaurant or a good place to find most anything? A loyalty program, meanwhile, encourages users to make that distinction and do some of the promotional legwork for the business.
Finally, consider a customer party. Larger businesses do this in the form of customer conferences, generally once a year, but even smaller businesses can do this with open houses or even online chat functions. Allowing customers the opportunity to connect with each other, and talk about experiences, not only provides businesses with potential avenues for change, but also shows what to highlight when trying to talk to potential new customers.
No business can function for long without customers. New customers are always a necessity, particularly for growth, but to keep up a long-term cash flow, the key point is old customers. New customers become old customers as time goes on, but old customers keep a business going. A focus on customer retention is the same as a commitment to keep the business going.