Own the Experience: 3 Ways to Improve Customer Retention

By Allison Howen, Associate Editor

Every savvy business owner knows that it is more cost-effective to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones.

Despite this well-known fact, many brands' retention efforts tend to fall flat. It is not enough, for example, to simply hand out a member ID number and tell someone that they are part of a loyalty program. Rather, businesses must treat each customer like they are a valuable asset - because they are.

For some help with maximizing your current customer base, consider these three retention strategies:

1. Trade Perks for Loyalty

Many businesses offer loyalty programs, but these programs are frequently used as a way to grow email subscriber lists or collect customer data instead of actually fostering loyalty and repeat purchases.

If a business falls into the former category, it is time to rethink the structure of the program. Marketers should start by asking what type of perks or rewards a business would have to offer to earn their personal loyalty. The answer is likely incentives, discounts and/or some type of gamification element (e.g., buy five times for Silver status).

Services like Belly, for example, are created specifically for small businesses and make it simple for users to implement a loyalty program with custom rewards. In addition, businesses that leverage Belly are able to track customer activity, generate word-of-mouth marketing via social integrations and reach new customers through Belly's network of users. Belly isn't the only loyalty option for SMBs, of course, others include FiveStars, Perka and Loyalzoo.

How to Predict Churn

Stop customers before they leave at wsm.co/nochurn15.

2. Provide Stellar Customer Service

Ninety-eight percent of U.S. consumers recognize that customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand or organization according to 2015 data from Microsoft's Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report. What's more, 56 percent of U.S. consumers' customer service expectations have grown in the last year, which means that businesses must keep pace or risk losing the customers they have already spent resources on to acquire.

It is important to note that heightened customer service expectations are likely due to the rise of channels in which consumers expect to receive service in, including social and mobile. Fortunately, serving customers in these channels is becoming easier for businesses of all sizes. Not only can live chat solutions often be integrated into mobile websites and apps, but businesses can also leverage their current social media management tool, such as Sprout Social or HootSuite, to manage and respond to customers across social channels.

Facebook has also made social and mobile customer service easier with the launch of its Businesses on Messenger solution, a platform that enables customers to have a conversation with a company, receive order conformations, shipping status updates and more.

For additional insights about Businesses on Messenger and how to become a customer service pro on Facebook visit wsm.co/cspro16.

3. Strengthen Relationships with Personalization

The unsung hero of customer retention is arguably personalization. After all, the best way to foster loyalty is by establishing a strong relationship with a customer, which can be done by showing interest in them. For instance, if a beauty retailer keeps track of customers who made a recent eyeshadow purchase, they can serve this customer segment relevant marketing campaigns based on that purchase, such as an email campaign that promotes a sale on eyeshadow brushes or makeup remover. In fact, the more data a business can collect from current customers the more personalized and relevant they can make their marketing campaigns.

A Holistic Approach

Although each of the aforementioned strategies can boost a company's customer retention efforts when implemented alone, they are even more effective when combined. By personalizing communications with customers, offering impeccable customer service across channels and rewarding loyalty, businesses can get a better return on investment from customers already acquired.