In an ideal world, customers would instantly fall in love with your business and form a customer posse. They’d wear t-shirts with your logo on it, brag about your business to their friends, fist bump cashiers at the checkout and spend money at your store on a regular basis.
Who wouldn’t want a customer posse? It might seem like a fictitious world, but retaining groups of customers is possible. They might not wear your business’s garb or fist bump staff, but you can take steps to keep customers for life.
It’s an important group to focus on. Research from The Center of Retail Management at Northwestern University shows 15 percent of a business’s most loyal customers account for 55-70 percent of the business’s total sales.
Here are five things every business can do to keep customers for life:
1. Keep a clean appearance
Your customers are constantly judging you and your business, whether they know it or not. If they walk into an overrun store with unkempt shelves, clothing racks in disarray or workstations piled with clutter, they’ll likely see your business as an unorganized, unprofessional place to visit.
Don’t let them make that judgment. Keep your store spotless, and straighten racks and shelves at the end of the night so it’s fresh and clean for customers the next day. And encourage employees to remove binders, reports and yesterday’s lunch from their desk before heading out.
If you’re in the food industry, be sure your sanitary inspection rating is clearly visible to customers so they can feel at ease regarding the safety of their food. While it may seem like the rating only pertains to you, it is something customers take into account.
2. Remove hassles from the checkout process
The checkout process plays an important role in customer retention. How? A recent survey shows slow checkout speeds and long lines were the top complaint of shoppers.
In addition, a third of customers feel like a burden to cashiers when they have a full cart.
If you want customers to keep coming back, you have to remove the headache that is the checkout process. Make sure your store is well staffed on busy days to handle large crowds to move customers through the line quickly.
In addition, make sure cashiers are friendly during the checkout process. Have them smile and thank customers for waiting. And, at no time should a customer ever feel like a burden for shopping at your store.
3. Reward your customers
It’s not enough to thank customers at the checkout; you have to go the extra mile to recognize your loyal customers. Set up a loyalty program to reward customers for choosing your business.
Loyalty programs not only encourage repeat business, they can turn customers into brand ambassadors and inspire larger purchases.
A new report shows 73% of members are likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs, and 66% of members say they increase the amount they spend on purpose to maximize points, according to the 2016 Bond Loyalty Report.
4. Hire staff that treats your customers like family
Customers who have a great experience in your store won’t hesitate to come back. After all, 63% of customers say service is the most important factor in their choice of business.
Business owners can’t expect to hire someone, tell them the business’s motto is “service with a smile,” and hope the employee treats customers with respect.
Making sound hiring decisions is paramount. You want employees who are invested in your business, who will treat customers not as strangers that make a purchase, but as family.
5. Don’t stop at the sale
When a customer makes a purchase, it shouldn’t represent the end of the sales cycle. It’s a big step, for sure, but it’s not time to walk away. After a customer makes a purchase, businesses should follow up.
Consider sending customers an email to see if they have any questions about their recent purchase. Maybe customers aren’t sure how to launder that new wool sweater they bought, or how to install the new security system they purchased. Provide follow-up support in the week following the purchase. Give customers access to helpful guides online, or the phone number to the help desk that can walk them through the installation process.
Be helpful. Customers remember acts like this, and it’s good for repeat business.
In addition, you might consider collecting feedback about a specific product. Find out what customers like and dislike so you can make improvements. You could also email a thank card, or, for larger purchases, send a small gift in the mail with a handwritten note of appreciation.
By taking these steps, businesses can convince customers to be more than a one-time visitor. Focusing on customer retention (aka forming a customer posse) can yield great results in the profit sector, so be sure to implement retention strategies to create lifelong customers.
What do you do to retain customers for life? Share your strategies in the comment section below.