If you are a small business and you are looking to increase your profitability, what is the most important thing you need to focus on? Isn’t this the question that every small business is trying to solve? The answer might surprise you. Start by “Creating Loyal Customers for Life”
Customer retention is of utmost priority. It’snot easy in this competitive world to continually acquire new customers. But,if you value and take care of your existing customers, they will act as ambassadors to bring in more customers for your business. Your loyal customers would become your brand advocates!
So how can you build a pool of loyal, repeat customers? I would say, this is where small business owners have an upper hand, as they can leverage their personal connections. They can take advantage of the customization and emotional quotient that a large scale industry player could never offer.
1. To always think about “customer’s customer” : Most businesses simply begin by thinking of their own buyers. But if you need to understand your own customers, you need to understand their customers first.
For example, you have a small business dealing with seat belts and you sell it to a car manufacturing unit. So you might have a direct relationship with the customer, but when you think about what your customer's customer needs, you are making a lifelong deal with the car manufacturer. So in this case, who would be your customer’s customer? A small family, who might buy a car in 10 years. Their expectation would be that seat belts should provide safety, easy to use and are comfortable. The customer might look at the car as the whole product, but dysfunctional of the seat belt might risk the family’s life.
So when the thought process is from the customer’s customer's perspective, the relationship is automatically built.
2. Be a trusted advisor, you always can’t be on a selling mode: Every interaction can’t be about pushing your wealth. The moment you wear a sales cap, you’re more likely to lose a customer than gain one. The approach should be to understand them, and see how you can offer them advice where they need, even if it means sacrificing an immediate benefit. There could be certain profitable deals / sales you won't be able to achieve, but with your honest advice you might gain their trust. That would be beneficial in the long run as they would bank on your decision and there would be credibility to your voice.
3. Keeping a constant engagement : When you constantly think about your customers, an engagement is always there. This however doesn’t mean bombarding them with information or messages or greetings or calls. But it’s a conscientious effort to maintain a “natural” connect with the customer, which is best executed by a small business.
For example, your customers are looking for a particular product which is out of stock and is currently unavailable with you. But, you take their contact details and update them when stock is available and also can provide alternate options in the same product variant proactively. This information is a value add and would please your customers in a positive way. By doing this they will want to contact you for any further requirements they might have in future instead of looking at other options. And if you have their contact information, once you have the latest stock on hand, you can send a broadcast message to all your customers informing them that you’ve stocked up.
The best way to maintain an engagement with a customer is using the age-old occasion trick. An occasion like a birthday or an anniversary gives your business an opportunity to connect with a customer without seeming intrusive.
For example, you are a baker and you remember that last year a customer placed an order with you for her daughter’s birthday cake. So this year prior to the date, you can call your customer and make a personalized cake of her favorite flavor and favorite cartoon character, or maybe you can extend a healthy alternative cake option made especially for her. You can let her know what’s new on your menu, and offer a customization especially for the birthday occasion. This not only creates a great bond but also makes them feel valued.
4. Product / Service excellence and continuous iteration on feedback received : The stronger your product is, the more the customers will use it, the more it will acquire value and the more loyal customers they will be.
Unless you have a unique product, customers are not going to come back to you. How can a business enhance its uniqueness? - By differentiating itself from what’s available in the market. And the best people to identify this is the user itself. So the business must get feedback. A business that continually updates itself based on customer feedback is more likely to meet a customer’s need, and only such businesses survive. Besides, in the case of a small business, it’s much easier to get valid feedback from the user of the product and actually work on it. What more, a customer who realizes his feedback has been implemented will feel appreciated that they are heard!
5. Going beyond the letter of contract : This is always very crucial. Delivering more than what is promised and what is written in contract always creates a delightful experience. Now, does this mean one should always give extra and how can one define this? For example, we have a contract on delivering our order of 100 masks on 31st July, but instead we were able to deliver on 21st July. This is beyond contract. Or a candle maker, knowing she is making a bulk gift delivery, asks if it can be hand-wrapped with a note inside from the person who ordered.
It doesn’t always have to pinch your pockets to go the extra mile, but paying attention to the little things can definitely delight your customer.
Creating customers for life doesn’t require heavy investment, but it requires time and an earnestness in contributing to the betterment of the customer. There is always room for improvement and room for making things better. This would entail learning new tools and techniques, applying feedback in daily processes,dealing with things in a better way, planning more efficiently and perfecting the art of happy customers for life!
Pranav Kothari is the head of the Large Scale Education Programmes division at Educational Initiatives (EI). He works in student assessments and the implementation of their adaptive learning software (Mindspark) in vernacular languages in government and affordable private schools across India. He has spoken on various platforms advocating the need to leverage the twin levers of cutting-edge educational research and technology-based solutions to revolutionize children in the K-12 space learn.