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Regardless of the size of your business, you rely on repeat customers to survive. What if Apple only sold one iPhone to each of its customers? What if airlines only purchased aircraft from Boeing once? No business can survive when most of their customers are new.
Before we go further, are you measuring it? If you don’t know the percentage of customers that are new versus repeat, you’re likely not addressing the issue.
Fortunately, it won’t take a lot of money. If you’re primarily an online business, you can already do this by forcing your customers to set up a profile. You can’t ship the product without their address so you already have the data you need to compile the statistic.
If you’re a brick and mortar business, it takes more thought. How about a customer loyalty program? You can set up accounts or use the power of mobile to allow users to check in at your store with their smartphone.
How about starting or using your email list? Offer a coupon that says something like “exclusive to our loyal customers?” If a person uses that coupon, you know that’s a repeat customer. Finally, taking time to get to know your customers will generate repeat business. An ice-breaker question that helps to measure this is to simply ask them if they’ve shopped at your store in the past. Welcome them back if they say yes.
These are only a few ways to measure repeat versus new business. However you do it, remember that this is one of the most important stats you’ll collect for your business. If any data is worth your time and money to collect, this is high on the list.
Maybe you were collecting the data already and you know that you’re having trouble retaining customers? Here are a few ways to encourage customers to come back.
It Starts with the Experience
There is nothing more important than the customer experience. If they aren’t coming back, they likely didn’t have a good experience. Here’s what to check:
Employees- Your front-of-house employees who interact with customers have to be good with people. If they’re moody, can’t carry a conversation, don’t smile, or just don’t have that vibe that attracts people to them in a positive way, they should be in the public eye.
On the other hand, they shouldn’t be so friendly that your customers feel awkward. Your employees should instinctively understand the balance between making customers feel welcome while giving them space.
Pricing- If they go to the big-box store down the road, they’re going to find the price printed on sticker stuck to the shelf. It’s might be lower than yours but there’s no haggling.
As a small business, you can negotiate package deals, wiggle on your price, and add services or other value-adds that makes the customer feel like they were heard and walked out with the best value possible. Don’t turn your store into the stereotypical used-car lot with the sleazy salesman but do listen and respond to customers concerns regarding price.
Professionalism- Is your store clean, shelves stocked, signage professionally designed and printed, employees clean and professional? This is where you take a cue from larger stores. People feel more comfortable dealing with businesses that have a corporate look. If your attention to detail is lacking, find somebody who can take on that task for you.
Along with that, how can you make your customer experience easier and faster? Strive to get that number as low as possible while having an atmosphere where they can spend as long as they choose with you or your sales staff before purchasing.
Privacy is a hot-button topic but you can collect customer information without invading their life. It will seem awkward to collect all of their contact information if they purchase a $5 item but for larger ticket items, having a record of what they purchased for warranty purposes or to allow for future support is a great reason to collect their information.
Then, ask their permission to include them on your email list. Let them know that they won’t be bombarded with daily emails and that you’ll only contact them when there’s a coupon, sale, or other significant event. Show them that you value their time, privacy, and email box.
Write Personal Notes
Email and mailers are nice but how often do you respond to impersonal correspondence? The allure of a small business is that it’s personal—something the big companies have a much tougher time emulating. Have an event or sale coming up? Write a personal, hand-written note. If it’s an email, put something in it that proves that it was personally written to them. (Keep the recipient’s kid’s name in your database and ask how they’re doing in the email, for example)
Be personal and relational. People want to do business with businesses that make them feel valued.
Go Over the Top
Sound like something out of a seminar? You’ve heard this popular phrase more times than you can count but are you doing it? If you are truly going over the top in your treatment of customers, they will come back.
Over the top isn’t necessarily convenient and you might not make much of a profit on the sale. It might require you to spend a lot of seemingly wasted time solving a customer problem and you might have to attend a big customer’s charity event although it’s the last thing you want to do.
Businesses that treat their customers like family thrive. Successful business owners center everything around their customer because they know that when they do that, profits, repeat business, and success are a byproduct of that mindset.
© 2013 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.