3 Proven Customer Retention Tactics You're Likely Not Using

3 Proven Customer Retention Tactics You're Likely Not Using
Wed, 30 Jan 2019 05:00:00 -0800

According to recent research, 80 percent of small and midsize business owners are optimistic about their businesses' performance in 2019. These owners cite a variety of factors behind this optimism, including the strength of their teams as well as the quality of their marketing and sales plans. However, 51 percent point to one major factor: the value of their existing customer base.

Yet most companies focus far more on new customer acquisition than they do on customer retention, a concerning fact given the value of customer retention. Research has shown that improving customer retention by 5 percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent. At the same time, customer acquisition costs have gone up by 50 percent over the last five years, making it that much more expensive to get new customers.  

For organizations looking to frugally build their bottom line, retention tactics can play a major role. Businesses looking to build out their customer retention efforts should consider at least one of the following three activities. They're cost-effective, informative, and can go a long way to helping you keep your best customers.

1. Ask for feedback proactively.

No news is not necessarily good news. Most customers won't tell you if they are dissatisfied with your business. They'll simply stop paying. As a result, taking the first step to ask about a customer's experience with you is an ideal way to gauge their satisfaction.

A frequently used approach is Net Promoter Score (NPS), a single-question survey that probes into a customer's likelihood to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague. As a widely used tool, NPS lets a business easily benchmark its NPS scores against industry averages. It lets organizations see how they stack up and assess if they have customer satisfaction issues that could result in attrition.

While universally used, NPS can be limiting because it doesn't offer much feedback about a customer's experience. That is why another valuable approach is to ask a small number of high-level questions every 6-12 months to understand customer expectations versus actual experience. Consider these three questions:

What motivated you to look for something like our product or service?

What have you enjoyed about our product or service?

What could we do to offer you a better experience?

Taking the time to ask simple yet well-rounded questions can provide a lot of insight into what customers wanted from your business relative to what they are actually receiving. Any negative gaps between the two measures is a signal that it's time to focus more on retention.

2. Track product or service usage.

Do you know when the last time was that a customer used your product or service, or when they last walked through your door? Lack of product usage, or infrequency of usage, can be signals that a customer is likely to quit your business. Measuring the last time a customer used your service and comparing that to the average span between usage can help isolate lapsed customers who you may be at risk of losing.

This is one area where customer relationship management (CRM) tools can be incredibly helpful. Rather than having you manually record and compare this information, these systems can automate tracking and collecting for you. They'll often automatically send email alerts if your customers haven't used your services within a predetermined amount of time, allowing you to proactively reach out and ask why. [View Business.com's reviews and best picks for CRM software.]

3. Promote "sticky" product features.

Companies are always excited to talk about their newest products and services. However, new features aren't always the most compelling, nor are they necessarily the features your customers can't live without.

These must-have features or services are frequently called "sticky features." That is, features your customers find so valuable that they'll happily continue using your services even if you make no further improvements. When customers aren't using your sticky features, there's a far higher likelihood that they'll churn.

To determine which features are the stickiest, you can certainly ask directly, or you can track it digitally with tools like Google Analytics' Events Tracking or Matomo. You'll usually find that sticky features are the features that reduce the need for recurring or manual activities, drastically decrease the time associated with regular tasks, or reduce the human error or business risks that come with everyday business responsibilities.

Once you know which features classify as sticky, make sure they're getting used by leveraging product marketing. Create blog posts, shareable collateral and videos that not only show how to use these sticky features but explicitly show the value your customers will get from using them.

Never stop with retention tactics.

No matter which approach you choose, the key to a strong retention plan is to never stop. Satisfying customer needs in one year has no bearing on driving customer satisfaction in the subsequent year. Making it an organizational norm to put customer retention front and center will go a long way to delighting customers, keeping them satisfied and making sure they stick with you for the long haul.

Struggling to Innovate? Office Politics Are Probably Getting In the Way
Wed, 30 Jan 2019 09:00:00 -0800

Innovation is never easy, but it can be made even more difficult when an organization is rife with internal politics. Just two members on a team with conflicting agendas can lead a project astray and leave the rest of the team confused, frustrated and disengaged.

Office politics on their own can do some serious damage to a company. Given enough time, they can even become a part of the culture, affecting relationships and creating bottlenecks at every level, which is especially troubling in small businesses with only a handful of workers. In fact, turf wars, politics and lack of alignment topped the list of common obstacles to innovation, with 55 percent of surveyed leaders citing internal squabbling as the worst offender.

No quick fix

Unfortunately, there's no quick fix to office politics, especially when they relate to innovation. The only real solution comes from the top. It requires strong leadership and a clear communication strategy that instills the idea that both innovation and collaboration are requirements of every person's job.

This will certainly become a balancing act on your part. You can't very well stop team-wide initiatives until things are resolved. But you also can't barrel ahead without addressing the issue at hand. The goal here is to move forward with innovation while ensuring that all team members recognize the faith and trust you have in everyone involved.

This isn't to say people won't feel as if another employee is encroaching on their territory. Forrester found that 43 percent of businesses experience internal battles over ownership. That's why communication is so important to innovation – and keeping internal politics at bay, I should add.

As a small business leader, it's up to you to explain and define each team member's role and responsibility in the initiative. You want to be as transparent as possible about the project from the very start, and the following should help in creating a team equipped for innovation.

1. Keep it real. 

A team, no matter its size, can solve almost any problem when approaching it as a united front. But that's not possible until everyone grasps the current state. Don't gloss over the situation. Instead, be upfront and honest about what you hope to accomplish and why you hope to accomplish it – not to mention any potential hurdles along the way. If you present people the whole truth, they will feel your trust and rise to the occasion.

2. Relinquish control. 

You've no doubt developed some semblance of a plan. Like the truth, this should be shared. Once you reveal the objectives and parameters, give your team members the freedom to make decisions on their own. If you allow people to take ownership of a problem, the desire to arrive at a solution is, naturally, greater. In turn, your team will likely achieve the goals at a much faster rate – and within the set parameters, no less.

3. Listen. 

People will always be your greatest resource. Each member of your team brings a unique perspective to a situation – if they feel comfortable sharing it. Establish an environment where everyone feels heard. Encourage team members to share their thoughts on the challenges facing the business. You'll be amazed by many of the solutions brought to the table.

4. Get buy-in. 

Skepticism is inevitable, even with directives coming from the business owner or the boss. Again, this goes back to the environment you're trying to create, so it's important to be sensitive to people's concerns. Set aside some time for a one-on-one conversation. Make sure the naysayer feels heard by considering their perspective. At the same time, however, reiterate your expectations for participation. Innovation in all its forms should be a team effort.

If you're leading up an innovation effort within your team, understand that the only true means of resolving a process issue or challenge is to become an integrated team. The goal is to work together to produce a meaningful and innovative solution. Otherwise, the effort won't provide the anticipated results.

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