How too boost your customer retention
Your priority as a business owner is to persuade your customers to hand over their money… and more importantly for them to carry on doing so. This is known as customer retention, but you’d be surprised how little some managers know about their customers, and how little they do to keep them happy. After all, they’re the bedrock of your business and you’ll save both time and money making repeat sales by retaining your customers rather than fighting to win new business.
Many of you may feel that you already possess exceptional customer service skills however there is always room for improvement for both you and your team in Thailand. Exceptional service involves exceeding customer expectations, and the more you exceed their expectations, the higher chance you will get them to come back. Building a successful business means looking after your customers and making them feel at the heart of your business. Customer retention essentially boils down to two things – customer research and customer relations.
Talking and listening to your customers is key to retaining them. Researching attitudes to your products or services will help identify problem areas as well as potential solutions. Customer research might even highlight areas for future product development.
Effective customer relations can make your customers feel valued and more likely to use you over and above a competitor. While they can’t afford to ignore the price and quality of your goods or services, faced with a choice between similar products, time and time again consumers will pick the Thai organisations they trust the most.
Effective customer relations encourages your customer to give feedback on their experience. Franchises and other small businesses in Thailand can win a trick over their high street competitors by using size to their advantage. Today’s consumers expect a polite and efficient service, but, being small allows you to get closer and offer them a truly personal approach. Encourage your staff to listen properly to what your customers are saying and to tailor your service accordingly.
What many Thai businesses fail to realise, is that customer loyalty cannot be bought. Loyalty is about being devoted to your best customers and it needs to be earned – and the starting point is in the front line of the business, with your staff. The relationship between the customer and employee sets the foundation for repeat business, so it is hard to underestimate the importance of hiring the staff who will be able to attract customers. It’s important to recruit staff with a positive attitude – after all, skills can be learnt, but attitudes are hard to change.
I was watching Gordon Ramsey’s Best Restaurant programme recently when the importance of being on your customer’s agenda really struck home. The programme includes a section where a diner secretly films service within the restaurant. Instances of outstanding service stand out and are treasured by the customer however there is no room for complacency as even the best sometimes fall down on delivering exceptional service all the time.
Consumers are hungry for trust and they will be looking out for sound business practices and ethics. It’s also true that people will often pay a small premium to deal with people – or to buy a product or service, they trust. If you’re interested in keeping hold of the customers you’ve got, you should stay in touch with them, make them feel special and learn what it is that will keep them coming back.
New and seasoned business owners can boost customer retention with these ten tips. By doing these things you will inspire customer loyalty and they will return to you time and time again. What’s more they will tell their friends how good you are as well.
- Empathise – listen and respond to your customers appropriately. Try not to rely on scripts which can make customers feel like little more than a number
- Stand out from the crowd – provide a memorable service and watch your company rocket up customers’ preferred list of suppliers
- Stay in touch – if you haven’t heard from certain customers in a while, pick up the phone. Remind them that you’re still there and use the opportunity to find out about their current needs
- Excellence every time – complacency is a killer so never forget that your customers have a choice
- Famous or infamous – never rely solely on the reputation of your franchise. A name above the door is no substitute for a quality service
- Under the microscope – sales figures and customer behaviour can highlight changes to the market. Stay one step ahead by watching your customers and understanding changing patterns
- Hold up your hands – unfortunately, things do go wrong. Encourage your team to learn from the business’s mistakes by listening to customer reaction
- Put yourself in the customer’s shoes – listen to their views and be genuine as a lack of sincerity will come across. Don’t just pay lip-service to their concerns actually take ownership and resolve them.
- Never promise what you can’t deliver – get back to customers well within the agreed timescales even if it is just to say you have nothing to report and to extend the deadline. Regular communication is usually welcomed by the customer.
- Word of mouth – sadly, customers are more likely to mention your business after things have gone wrong. Nip problems in the bud and give those customers reasons to tell their own contacts how well you resolved the issue
Head of Franchising
Lloyds Banking Group
Tel: 07802 324018
Richard heads up the Lloyds Bank franchise team and is a regular contributor to trade publications and national press. He regularly speaks at franchise seminars and exhibitions.