Without your old or new customers, you wouldn’t have a business.
So it’s worth knowing how you can strengthen and deepen the relationship that you have with your customers, in order to maintain high customer retention rates and customer loyalty, for a long time.
Plus, if you take care of your customers, they’ll do a lot of your marketing for you, by telling others how great you are.
Which is worth the effort – especially when you consider that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of marketing. Which proves that relationship marketing is beyond valuable.
In this post, we’re going to look at how you can improve your customer retention by strengthening the relationships you have with them.
We’ll go over some of the strategies you can use to strengthen and deepen customer relationships, in ways that you may not have known of before.
By the end of this post, you’ll be eager to put what you’ve learned into action, so that you can benefit from having better customer relationships that will benefit them and your small business.
Actually care about your customers and be authentic
The first thing that you need to understand about improving your customer relationships is that you can’t be ‘fake.’
This means that you can’t do things with the sole purpose of trying to improve your bottom line.
If you improve customer relationships, sure, the bottom line will often improve as a by-product – but it shouldn’t be your end goal.
If it is, people will sniff you out a mile away and you’ll often create the opposite effect, which includes losing the trust and respect of both your regular and new customers – and that’s definitely bad for small businesses.
Authenticity is key. If you take a look at the stats, you’ll see that 63% of people buy from authentic brands, compared to brands that hide their ‘true selves.’
Download a cheat sheet of 7 action steps to strengthen and deepen your customer relationships.
Remember to be authentic and make what we’re going to cover part of the DNA of your company and not just tactics to raise sales.
Speak to your customers during key moments
One of the best ways that you can improve customer relationships is by actually speaking to your customers during/after key moments, over the phone.
Note: We’re going to discuss this, from the perspective of the CEO, or at least someone who is very high up. But, it can also work if you’re a customer service representative.
There are multiple moments that you might want to capture with a conversation.
One key moment might be right after a purchase.
If you call someone after they become a customer and thank them for their purchase, they’ll be highly appreciative. The extra step will also go a long way in showing them that you are grateful that they chose to do business with you and not someone else.
Another key moment, when it is worth speaking to customers directly, is when they have a complaint that hasn’t been dealt with properly.
If your customer has been dealing with a complaint and it has taken some time for your company to sort out the issue, you might want to get in touch with the customer directly and thank them for their patience.
By letting them know that a higher up has recognized that there is a problem and that steps are being taken to make sure the same issue doesn’t happen again, the customer feels like they’ve been heard and understood. You may also want to compensate them, then and there, on the call.
It is estimated that poor customer service costs US companies $83 billion a year.
When you quickly deal with any spiky customer service issues, by taking charge and speaking to the customer directly, you’ll hopefully avoid any losses for your small business.
Plus, if you can turn a negative customer experience into an experience of customer satisfaction, you may even benefit from the fact that 69% of people would recommend a company to others, after having a positive customer experience.
You might also want to speak to customers when asking for feedback or going through product development.
If you speak to customers and ask them for feedback on how things can be made better, with the product or even with your company, then such customer satisfaction will make the individual feel more invested in the company.
Satisfied customers will also begin to feel like what they’re saying has an impact on the company and the product that they are using.
They’ll also be more loyal to you if you implement the feedback (which you should aim to do), because now the product will be better suited to their needs.
Therefore, whenever you’re thinking about iterating your products, consider getting on the phone with some of your customers and getting some suggestions from them.
You may also want to send a thank you note, like the one below, after asking for feedback.
All in all, your goal here is to make customers feel valued and understood. Loyal customers will want to stick with you, and new customers will want to become loyal ones.
You shouldn’t just get in touch with customers during key customer satisfaction or problematic moments, like the ones mentioned above.
Instead, you should stay in constant communication with your customers.
This will help customers feel as though you’re not just getting in touch when there is something wrong or when you need something from them.
You can easily achieve this with the use of an email newsletter.
Here’s an example.
While it’s a good idea to send out regular newsletters that promote products within your small business, if you want to improve customer relationships, it also helps to provide value, too.
A lot of the time, you can provide value in the form of exceptional content that meets the needs of your customers.
Provided your content is great, people are going to look forward to hearing from you and your customers will also feel as though you’re a thought leader in your field.
This, of course, can be good for a small business, as people will now be more likely to recommend you.
You’re also providing extra value, other than what can be obtained from your product.
Create a sense of community
Another way that you can improve your customer relationships is by creating a sense of community.
You’re probably aware of the saying that people buy into brands and not products.
If you can create a great sense of community, you’ll emphasize what it means to buy into your brand.
If your brand represents your customer in a real way, they’ll feel proud to use your products.
A great example of this is Apple.
Early on, Apple differentiated itself with its ‘Think Different’ approach.
The company labeled itself as producing the computer that Einstein (and many other remarkable people) would use.
Therefore, when you bought an Apple computer, you felt as though you were buying into that identity and were joining a community of remarkable people, who, as implied, use devices designed for remarkable people.
You could argue that Tesla is doing something similar, where people who buy Tesla’s purchase the car because it is a good car.
However, you could also say that they buy because of what Tesla (and perhaps even Elon Musk) represent.
This might include innovation and bold thinking and, if you speak to a lot of Tesla owners, you’ll find that this is often the case.
In fact, if you go to the Tesla website, you’ll see that they even have a ‘mission’ that speaks to this sentiment.
So, how can you create a sense of community, similar to what I’ve covered above?
Perhaps the most obvious thing that you can do is to be clear about what your brand represents and what people are buying into, when they purchase something from your company.
You can do this with your relationship marketing style and the messaging that you’re using.
This step is often taken before people buy something from you. So, it is a little bit different, when compared to the other tips that are in this post.
But, if your marketing message is clear about what your brand represents and what you as a company want to achieve, those who share a similar vision will invest in your company by buying your products.
You’ll automatically create customer relationships from the start, as customers will feel as though what they’re buying is reaffirming who they are.
And then, a lot of the time, when it comes to it, if your company ever comes under attack, they’ll defend your company, because they’re simultaneously defending their own values.
Now, it’s worth noting that there are different levels of events – but the goal here is to get some form of ‘face time’ with your customer
One way that you can do this is by hosting a live conference.
If you can host a live conference, you’ll be able to speak to your customers, face-to-face and to thank them for their choice to work with your company.
You’ll also be able to provide some ‘fringe benefits’ for those regular or even new customers that get invited in your live events.
For example, you might be able have special speakers at your events.
You may also be able to connect people, who can then do business together – benefiting everyone.
Another way that you can create an ‘event,’ is by hosting a ‘Facebook Live video,’ where you’re directly interacting with your customers using a live social media format.
Yes, this is a step down, when compared to a live event, but it still works well.
When hosting such a video on social media, you get the chance to answer any questions people might have.
Hosting a Facebook Live video is also great way to let your customers know where the company is going and what will be happening next.
By using social media to simply keep people in the loop, they’ll feel valued and will respect your company for taking this step. This, of course, will improve the relationship, because customers will recognize that you’re taking the time to interact with them and provide a form of value.
People like to be treated as ‘insiders’ and Facebook Live Videos are a great way to do that.
At the core of it all, however, you’re also improving customer relationships and your overall customer retention, because you’re humanizing your company and not just making it a faceless brand.
As we touched upon earlier, for some of the most successful companies out there, people buy into the CEO/Founder as much as they buy into the product.
Respect and reward loyal, regular and current customers
Developing a loyalty program in order to respect and reward your loyal customers is something that can go a long way, when it comes to improving customer relationships.
Sometimes, people just want to be recognized for the fact that they’ve stayed loyal to your company for so long.
A small and simple loyalty program gesture can show the repeat customer that you recognize and value the extent of their current customer loyalty.
These small simple gestures often don’t cost much, when you compare them to the lifetime value of a customer who is loyal.
In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that loyal customers are worth 10x their initial purchase,
It’s stats like this one that help explain why 82% of small business owners say loyal customers are key to growth. So, while it’s important to pursue new customers, it’s just as critical to ensure you keep your loyal ones invested, too.
It’s up to you how you determine whether or not someone is a loyal customer. It might be after a certain number of orders or if someone has been a customer for a certain period of time.
A lot of the time, figuring out rewarding your loyal customers is about creativity.
You could buy them coffee for a week – or you could send them a box of cookies, with a handwritten thank you note. You may even want to send them your favorite book of the month.
It’s worth noting that the more personal your customer loyalty reward is, the better your results will tend to be. If you can recognize the loyal customer as an individual and not just some random customer who’s spent a lot of money with you, the gifts will be better appreciated.
Here’s an example of someone who was sent a ‘Batman book,’ as a means of rewarding customer loyalty. It even has a handwritten note!
Do you think this performed better than just a standard thank you card?
Of course, this is easier to do with a business that tends to deal with a small pool of clients. That’s because you can easily record this kind of information in your CRM software.
But, don’t let that stop you from putting together a specific loyalty program with which to reward loyal customers.
Give them some respect. They could have taken their business elsewhere, but didn’t.
Consistency is also an important factor, when it comes to improving customer relationships.
There are two nuances here.
The first is that you have to make sure that you’re consistent with the methods that you’re using to deepen customer relationships.
Though we’ve touched on some good tips within this post, it’s important that you don’t just do these things as a one-off.
If you want to create a good sense of community, make sure that you’re consistently doing things that reaffirm what your brand stands for and what people are buying into.
If you’re hosting Q&A sessions, make sure that you do so more than once and at regular intervals. Social media is a great place to host these sessions and to breed a good sense of community.
The second, however, is that you have to make sure that everyone in your company is consistent in their approach, when it comes to deepening customer relationships.
If everyone is on the same page, you’ll ensure that there are no bad customer experiences, whenever someone is dealing with your brand.
And, this will help to maintain the customer relationships that you have created.
If you take the time to ensure that you’re hiring the right people, that you train them properly and that they respect customers, you’ll make it so that none of your hard work goes to waste.
Research has shown that 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service. You can easily be affected by this stat, if everyone on your team isn’t clear on how customers should be treated.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that business is all about people.
If you treat your customers well, you’ll be able to improve the relationship that you have with them. And, your small business will grow, and your customer retention rates will improve, as a result.
It’s important that you’re authentic and consistent in your relationship marketing strategy, however, or you won’t get the results that you’re looking for.
Take the steps needed to implement a relationship marketing strategy which shows respect and value, and which gratifies customer loyalty in a rewarding way.
You won’t necessarily see results right away. But, over time, the actions that you do take will compound, producing massive results for your company in the future.
Do you have any tips you can share when it comes to strengthening and improving customer relationships? Please let me know in the comments!