One of the most fundamental issues to any company engaged in online ecommerce is whether to place more focus on customer acquisition as opposed to customer retention. Of course both are extremely important to making your business a success online, however frequently much more effort is placed on acquiring new customers, mainly because the CEO is screaming, “Where are the sales!” This would also make sense due to the fact that most of a company’s initial revenue is generated by new customer acquisitions. However, if a company doesn’t care what happens to a customer after they are on board, the company will have a high attrition rate and not do well long-term, or at least as well as they could do if they highly valued the customer experience and working to improve it. Here are some ideas and suggestions for making your customers happier with your company and stay customers for life.
Right from day one, your company should place a strong emphasis on customer-relations and treating your customers like they are the most important people in the world. Making sure your call center and customer service staff answering emails are treating your customers like gold is a must. Your quality control manager should be getting CC’ed on emails between staff and customers, as well as listening to phone calls with customers to make sure all the customer service agents are handling the calls as well as possible. Strict customer service monitoring and training on how to be friendly, helpful, and doting on your customers is highly recommended. Having a company philosophy in place as it relates to treating your customers very well is always a great move as well. You can also analyze the entire consumer experience on your site from homepage on through to confirmation page to make sure your customers are being taken care of from beginning of the process until the end. Having good auto-responder emails, that look personalized and professional, is also a good measure to have in place to make your customers feel warm and fuzzy about their purchase. Always be upfront and clear to your customers and prospective customers as to exactly what they have purchased, the benefits, and how long their order will take to arrive. Managing customer expectations is always a good policy because it alleviates pressure on your call center to answer questions that could have been answered on your site. Having really good and comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) can also reduce needless calls to your customer service department, which will allow them to focus on taking care of issues, up-selling, and building the relationship with your customers.
There are many ways to treat a customer well after they become your customer. Whether you are a one-off type purchase or have the ability to sell additional items to your customers, treating them great after they purchase is a must. You may even want to have someone in your call center place calls to your new customers to welcome them as a new customer and to assure them that their order is being processed expeditiously. This is also a great opportunity to reinforce the sale and up-sell additional accessories and products they may want, increasing your average order value. Up-selling should always be done tastefully with the customer’s best interests in mind…never pushy. Members of your customer service staff can also place follow-up calls or emails a month after the purchase to see how it’s working out for them. Again, this reinforces the fact that you as a company are sticking by your customer and really care. This will make your customers more likely to purchase from you in the future and refer their friends and family to your company. With Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter in heavy use, it’s more important than ever to have a customer referral program in place so your happy customers can share it with their friends and get rewarded when they purchase from the referral. This can increase business exponentially if marketed properly.
How your customer service department handles complaints can make or break your company’s retention in the long run. Frequently, customer service reps are afraid to report complaints to their managers unless they are encouraged to do so. This is why I always recommend customer service be handled in the USA by your in-house call center. Outsourcing this aspect of customer service can be a nightmare and cause your customers a lot of frustration, risking your relationship with them, which in an economy like this can really hurt business. Customer complaints, if handled well, can be a source of loyal customers. Look at complaints as an opportunity to build the relationship with the customer and make them love your company. A complaint is a “gift” as they say!
Once you have loyal customers that like doing business with your company you can launch a member referral program to reward your customers for spreading the word about your company to their friends and family members. This can be accomplished through an email referral system that can keep track of referred customers and reward the referrer with a gift card or cash. Customer referral programs can be a very powerful word of mouth marketing tool and open up an entirely new channel of revenue. And, happy customers always tell others about your company and what a good experience they had.
These are but a few ideas for increasing your company’s focus and emphasis on customer retention. Having as long a life-time value (LTV) for your customer base can really increase your company’s value and make you a more attractive buy-out candidate. I hope you liked this post and feel free to contribute any comments of your own!