Customer retention and loyalty (in part) is built on great customer service and with loyalty comes one of the most powerful ‘free’ marketing tools you can use in your business… word of mouth marketing.
It has become easier to record and study the effectiveness of word of mouth marketing in our businesses thanks to the invention of social media, and recent studies show it’s even more important to start watching what our customers are sharing about our products and services. Forbes back this up in their article, ‘Why word of mouth marketing is the most important social media’ by citing stats given by Nielsen (a consumer habits research company), stating that 92% of consumers from their studies believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
If this is true then we need to refocus our efforts on our marketing and sales strategies around not only bringing in new leads, but most importantly retaining existing customers.
Today in The Handmade Business Podcast we are talking about how to use customer service to increase customer loyalty, or ‘customer retention’.
10 Customer Service Tips That Improve Customer Retention
Remember to call customers by their name – Like most I have a pet hate when it comes to cold calls, especially when I get called ‘dear’, ‘love’, or ‘honey’… that’s a sure-fire way for me to become really quite rude with you and hang-up while you are still talking. What really displeases me though is when I call/email a company I deal with often and they don’t make an effort to use my name in our conversation. It’s almost like they are keeping some invisible arm out-stretched between us… it doesn’t feel welcoming. The great thing about selling online is that we have far more connection with our customers than ever before; socially we are even invited into their lives. So, use my name in our conversations, let me feel welcomed and respected. It doesn’t have to be overly familiar in tone, by personalising your messages to me socially, or otherwise is a really endearing touch, because you show me respect.
Be clear in your answers –Make sure that you give customers clear mandates for how you are planning to work with them. Clarity is key in all situations, especially if you have an unhappy customer in front of you.
Be knowledgeable - As buyers we choose to shop with businesses because of their knowledge about what they do. We choose wedding photographers friends used because they took great shots and had a wonderful rapport with the guests. We choose craft businesses because they are skilled at what they do and we want to support that art. So, show us your knowledge in your dealings with us. We don’t need schooling, but we do need to feel confident that you know what you are doing with our special order.
Be helpful – Being helpful is about being inspiring and useful. When I ran Sara’s Texture Crafts I would always make time for customer interactions. No question was too small or silly to me, each demanded my attention. One of the things that stood out at shows especially was how being helpful and inspiring to my customers would lead to more new faces each year and if I was lucky an extra sale here and there. All of these new customers came to me because someone sent them to my stall… You could hear them down the aisle, ‘Here’s the wool lady, she’ll show you what to do!’ This is powerful customer retention at work.
Upsell only the ‘perfect’ products/services – I do hate those sales reps who just sold me the item I wanted and then try and sell me a hundred other seemingly useless things. You know the ones, you buy a mop head and they try to sell you a duvet! They do it because they have sales targets, but almost everyone says, no thank you. If that sales rep had instead offered me a new bucket to go with my mop, I may have hesitated long enough to think about whether I needed a new one. Why? Because it was more useful to my current predicament… cleaning the floors. In my craft business I was ever watchful of my customers and if at a show someone had bought some wool for dry felting I’d offer them the right needles. If they bought a knitwear pattern I’d show them the range of yarns that best suited that pattern. This seemingly small attention to detail helped me bring in more money both at shows and in online queries, because I offered a second ‘useful’ item. If you have the ability you can also create an area on your product, or checkout pages that promote a complimentary product on your website. This is a great customer retention tactic.
Be quick to resolve issues, but don’t be pushy – Unhappy customers want to be dealt with quickly and as a business owner you naturally want to avoid losing a customer all together, so resolving issues favourably and quickly is always ideal for customer retention. You do have to avoid being pushy though, so if a customer has been given options, you need to work with them to find the best route to a resolution and not push them down one route they may later regret.
Go the extra mile – Back when I started University in London some years ago now we settled in Sydenham, South London. A little while later a new hair dresser opened her shop at the back of a local Barber shop and called it The Outback Hair Salon. Paula was looking for hair models to practise new designs on and as a student I had very little cash to spare, so in I went seeing what she could do for me. Over the year’s Paula became part of the family so to speak, as she also cut my partner’s hair too. What made Paula not only my hair dresser, but a friend was not only her skill and attention to detail, but that she always went the extra mile. She made an effort to get to know me and the things that mattered to me, so if she knew I’d had a busy work trip overseas before our appointment she’d offer me a head massage while she was washing my hair. If a supplier discontinued my hair dye colour, she’d find a replacement before our next scheduled cut. She made her service so effortless that my trust for her is why almost 10 years after I moved to Devon I’m more than happy to promote her in this blog post! A great example of customer retention!!
Be polite – I’m not sure I even need to write a ‘why’ here! Being polite is just plain good manners and in business respect for your customers should go without saying.
Establish procedures for unhappy customers – Sometimes things go wrong, despite our best intentions. Having clearly set out procedures helps you deal with issues swiftly as they arrive and gives faith to your customers.
Stay calm and positive – Nothing is more unsettling for your customers than seeing you in a stinking mood, so despite what has happened maybe just moments before, you need to calm yourself and re-center, so that you can deal with each new issue as it arises. Staying calm and positive in situations will rub off on those around you.
Unconditional trust is built over years, absolutely… but there are certainly things you can do today to improve customer relationships and build better customer retention. Be the craft business that your customers prefer to support, be their inspiration and their first recommendation. This is how you stand out and are remembered by your customers when talking to friends. This is loyalty.
Do you have many return customers? Yes, no? Tell me why you think that is in the comments below.
Thank you for watching! I hope that was helpful, or at least thought provoking?
If you have any questions or comments, please pop them in the comment section below.
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