Customer Retention Strategies
To acquire and retain customers to build long-term relationships is one of the best practices you can apply to your company and enjoy the benefits for many, many years. And to achieve this, utilizing effective customer retention strategies is absolutely essential.
eCommerce has radically changed the way we spend. Before we felt the need to touch the goods, compare different products, and get help from the shop assistant.
Now, the buying process has become faster and more indirect. However, the need for a human relationship with the brand has not disappeared, especially now that the competition in the eCommerce space increases and with it the need to stand out in a sea of retailers.
Sam Walton, the founder of the supermarket chain Walmart, said: “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”
It’s necessary to create an efficient service structure, characterized by gears that must work together to allow a positive shopping experience that brings the customer back, from the usability of the site that allows one to find and purchase products in an intuitive way, to effective delivery methods, clear and functional payment systems, and most importantly; customer care.
What is meant by customer care?
Customer care refers to the customer service activities before, during and after the purchase process.
From this point of view, customer care involves almost all the components of the business such as deliveries, production, marketing, payments, etc.
The most common mistake among companies is to focus their energies on advertising, aimed at acquiring new customers, and in the process neglecting assistance for those who have already bought the products and could do so again.
It could take so little effort to turn an occasional customer into a loyal one, and many brands have the primary focus of a single sales channel rather than utilizing all of the elements that can contribute to more revenue.
How to Utilize Customer Retention Strategies
To start building an excellent customer support service, you must learn to know the consumer and always listen to them. On a practical level, having a call center or a telephone number reserved for customer assistance would be ideal. There is nothing better than human contact and a friendly voice when a customer needs something.
But while the phone can sometimes solve problems big or small in the shortest possible time, it’s characterized by excessive costs that fall on the company. For this reason, a lot of companies do not have a 24-hour phone service but prefer to interact with customers through other tools, such as email and chat systems.
Even the pages of social networks are now widely used by customers to request information on products and services directly to the company, but still many brands overlook the potential of tools such as Facebook or Twitter to interact with customers and utilise these platforms in their customer retention strategies.
A customer service system that accompanies the customer step-by-step through every phase of the after-sales process is key to retention. Customer service doesn’t stop once a sale has been made, especially if you want to retain that customer in the future.
Once you have decided on the best channels to provide your customer support through you can focus on the best ways to retain customers
Reduce Your Average Response Time
You can have the most prepared and competent customer service in the world, but if you respond to a request long after it’s needed, you could lose customers. Nobody likes to wait and, in a world that now goes to the speed of light, a customer service system must guarantee maximum response speed. This is considered to be a major factor for consumers and can be the difference between making a sale or not.
When you decide to set up an effective customer service system for your eCommerce website, keep in mind that your processes are different from that of an offline store and, consequently, has different needs.
An offline shop is physical and if someone urgently needs to know something specific, they can go visit the store and speak directly with the employees, manager, or owner. Customers are also aware that the store will have certain business hours and they can’t get in touch with the staff past a certain time in the day.
With eCommerce, the perception changes.
Customers think because your website is online 24/7 that your staff is too. This is especially true when you sell to multiple countries across different time zones.
Imagine if the majority of your customers come from a country where the hours that they contact you are reasonable for them, but it’s the middle of the night for you and your fast asleep.
A lot of these customers won’t know where you are in the world and that they won’t be getting a response probably for at least another 8 or so hours, and this can lead to them getting frustrated, impatient, and not wanting to do business with you.
In practice, your customer service becomes the only way to establish a relationship with the potential customer. It is for this reason that you can not make inquiries wait when you’re in communication with people and need to aim for the fastest response possible.
An effective way to work around this, especially if you can’t have 24-hour staff to cater to this type of business, is to utilize chatbots. A chatbot is like a 24/7 virtual sales and customer service assistant that can handle most of your customers and potential customers inquiries before they ever get to you.
The chatbot can be trained to respond to certain types of answers, direct customers to specific pages on your website, and handle a lot of questions that would have otherwise been time-consuming or not possible for you to manage.
If you have a customer inquiring about delivery times but it’s 3 am where you are and you’re asleep, the chatbot could direct the customer to a page outlining delivery times and a contact form to send an email to you.
The customer could even get their answer from being directed to that page and reading the information there, and as a result, make a purchase because they are satisfied with the outcome of the assistance provided, thus proving to be one of the best customer retention strategies because this one literally works while you're sleeping.
Speak in an Understandable Manner
It is useless to have a super competent and prepared customer service team if they only speak in a technical language, which is unclear to those on the other side of the phone or computer screen and if it takes years to explain a concept. For this reason, make sure that you or your team learns to use clear, concise, and layman terminology.
A customer sends an email asking why, together with the smartphone that they ordered, they did not receive the cover that was also included in the price.
Here, in this case, it would be preferable an answer like:
“Good morning Mr. Customer, we sincerely apologize for this situation and will rectify it. You will receive your cover within three working days. We appreciate your patience and thank you for contacting us.”
“Good morning Mr. Customer, we apologize for the inconvenience. The one who takes care of the warehouse and packing management has mistakenly inserted your cover in another package and it was delivered to the same area in which you live. We can arrange for the package to be sent back to us then we can send it on to you or we can just send a new one which could arrive within three working days. Thank you for letting us know and once again we are really sorry!”
The justification can also be there, but it’s not a good look and it’s not ultimately what the customer wants to know. They just want their cover ASAP.
Moreover, this type of communication will allow you to save time, which you can dedicate to another customer waiting for an answer.
Don’t use technical and specific words that an ordinary person can not understand, but simple words and a natural and colloquial language. Pretend you have to explain the crux of the matter to a child or a friend of yours who knows nothing about that product, but in the most polite and non-patronizing manner.
Everyone Must Be Well-Versed in Your Brand
Do you know what it’s like to speak to phone operators of companies to get to know new specific promotions or to solve a problem and only encounter people who know less than you do?
If your eCommerce website is large enough to warrant having a customer service team, the people that take care of your customer service must know how to respond to a request as soon as possible, without having to do lengthy research in order to generate an accurate response.
In practice, in addition to knowing from top to bottom every item in the catalog of your website, the customer wouldn’t know the technical language that is normally used within your business. For this reason, the customer service team must have the ability to address the issue that is hidden under sometimes very simplistic words.
It is not easy for the customer service staff to know perfectly every single millimeter of your eCommerce store, especially if your articles are constantly updated and there’s always lots of news. In this case, training carried out periodically may represent the best solution.
Perhaps they will be time-consuming and costly, but the result will be customer satisfaction, which can lead to increased customer retention and the time and money invested beforehand paying for itself.
If your sites products spans across different ranges, for example, you sell washing machines, dishwashers, smartphones, and televisions, perhaps it would be appropriate to divide your staff into specialist groups who are experts on that specific product.
Try to think about when you enter a common physical store of home appliances and electronics: if you need a television, you are directed to a specific person for that sector; if instead, you need a refrigerator, you’re now with another staff member.
In short, starting from the assumption that not everyone can know everything, it is more probable that the staff will know from A to Z the products of a specific sector. This is why, if your team is made up of a large number of customer service staff, it is advisable to split it according to their skills in order to generate the most effective responses and results.
Use Positive Tones
When a customer contacts you, they certainly don’t want to waste time and want the communication to be over as quickly and efficiently as possible. Starting from the point of communication, it is important not to let them fall on negative responses. It also goes with the image you want to give to your brand.
Someone who contacts you is looking for a product that needs replenishment. In practice, there must be 3 weeks before it is sent.
This is certainly not a positive answer, especially if this had not been announced when ordering and was buried deep within your Terms and Conditions.
How to answer in this case? Of course, it is better to avoid answers like:
“Good morning Mr. Customer, we only realized now that the smartphone that you ordered, at the moment, is not in stock. We are waiting for a new supply and will let you know”.
That response is wrong on so many levels.
The “we will let you know” is closing off the communications. That sentence doesn’t end in a way that the customer can have a rebuttal to continue the communication. It implies that they should not contact you any further and you will contact them once the item is back in stock.
The fact that you have noticed “only now” that a product in the catalog is no longer in stock, does not give a very positive image of your website, which shows poor professionalism.
In these cases, which are quite embarrassing for the company, it would be better to immediately offer a solution to the customer’s problem.
At this point, an answer like:
“Good morning, Mr. Customer. We are already working on your order, setting it as our top priority. We will make sure it is sent to you as soon as it is in stock, and also send you a confirmation email when the shipment has started. The maximum timeframe, however, is 3 weeks. We sincerely apologize and please feel free to contact us if you have any queries.”
What changes from the previous answer?
First of all, do not show the problem (you just realized it’s not in stock), but make Mr. Customer feel like the top priority for your store. In addition, sending a confirmation at the time of shipment shows that you are keeping the customer informed throughout the whole process. This way, the customer can monitor every aspect of the shipment and be sure that you have not forgotten about them.
Finally, give a certain and not approximate timing for a maximum limit within which the customer can receive their package and emphasize this. It is, as you can see, to say the exact same thing in different terms, but in the second case with positive language.
The correct use of language has always been the main tool of persuasion and with the right language, you can turn a disgruntled customer into a happy one.
Utilize Multiple Channels
The world went digital a while ago now and social media plays a bigger role than ever when it comes to customer service and retention. Gone are the days where your company just needed a phone number, maybe a website too. Now, you need to open yourself up through different channels as people have their own preferences for communication.
Being present with a company chat on Facebook is important, because, to date, it is one of the most used by customers to communicate with businesses. This is because it is also an immediate tool. If a potential customer simply asks you if you have a certain shirt on your store that does not appear, it would be a little inconvenient for them to call or send an email, don’t you think?
Be aware, though. When you use Facebook, pay attention to a particular element: As a rule, Facebook inserts the timing or your responses on your page. Have you ever seen “typically answers within a few hours” displayed on some pages?
In practice, it forces you to be quick so as not to discourage someone who wants to write to you! If you have limited customer service availability, you may not want to utilize this particular channel.
As you can see, you are really spoiled for the choice of channels to use to offer support to your customers, which is why you no longer have excuses to not answer a request, even if by distraction.
Customer Retention is Essential
All of this is especially true in the age of online communication, where people talk, look for opinions and other information online before buying a product. In this context, a bad review is a very strong boomerang, which can negatively affect the company’s revenue.
Companies that have spent huge resources on advertising have not always been repaid for the effort. On the contrary, if a company invests to create an organized and effective customer care system, it can earn from every point of view: happy and loyal customers which leads to more revenue, positive reviews, and word of mouth.
Do not miss any opportunity: All interactions enable you to capture and retain customers. And little by little, the repeated interactions form the relationship. Think for a moment about your personal life: The people with whom you build stronger relationships are those with whom you interact often, right? Well, the same thing happens with brands.
To retain customers, your goal should be to maintain a fluid communication, really listening to your customers and reacting based on their responses. Quality communication will be the touch that manages to differentiate you from the competition.
Even if you receive seemingly trivial questions, try to help as much as possible, without making comments that may also offend or lack professionalism. Something that may seem extremely elementary to you, for someone else may not be. After all, it’s one of the reasons why customer service exists.