In the best of times, customer retention is critical to small business success. But these days, with marketing dollars being slashed and customer acquisition budgets going down the drain, it is more important than ever to hold onto your customers.
Acquiring a new customer is five times more expensive than retaining one. The success rates for selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%, while it is 5% to 20% for new customers, says Richard Shapiro, president of The Center for Client Retention and author of two best-selling books on customer experience.
What’s more talking, and listening to existing customers is even more important during this pandemic crisis. In an earlier post, Adriana Madrinan, a consultant for Florida SBDC at FIU, advised small businesses to be proactively reaching out to their existing customers now and asking how they are doing and what they need. This can also help to inform them about ways they can pivot their products or services to be more essential in our new normal.
FOR YOUR TOOLBOX: CUSTOMER INTERVIEWS
A simple tool all small businesses can use is the customer interview, Shapiro said in a webinar hosted by BizHack Academy, a Miami-based digital marketing training organization. “Customers will tell you anything but you have to ask the right questions and in the right order,” Shapiro said.
Don’t call is a survey. Explain to your customers this is part of your company’s process to ensure your company is meeting their changing needs.
Come up with a list of about 50 questions and choose 15-20 that are most appropriate to ask at any one time, Shapiro suggests.
To business owners he suggests making a list of customers you want to reach and commit to do one a week, if not more. Task trusted team members to reach out to a second group of customers, Shapiro says. Start with the questions that will likely solicit the most positive responses first.
A few of the questions he suggests includes: How are you doing? Your family? Why did you originally select our business to do business with? What do you like best about doing business with us? How easy is it to do business with us? What feedback do you hear from your team about our product or service? Do you use any other suppliers that have similar products and services? If so is there an opportunity to increase our business? What is the best way we can help you achieve your goals?
Now more than before, there is a hunger for human connection, said Dan Grech, founder and lead instructor for BizHack, which offers 5-week accelerated digital marketing bootcamps and free webinars. “Many of us are isolated and quarantined and getting on that phone call and being human in that relationship will create a level of loyalty that will serve you well.”
IS YOUR WEBSITE WELCOMING?
Your website is your business’ front door – that’s never been more true than now when so much is virtual — and it needs to be welcoming, Shapiro said. Look at the messaging on your home page. He says most websites don’t convey that they want to help you before hitting you with the hard sell. That includes the nonprofit that hits you with “How to Donate” before telling you about the impact they make and inviting you in to learn more about them. Or the retailer that uses the space for a sale on a few items rather than a message conveying that you want to come inside to see all that it offers.
”You must engage before you sell,” Shapiro says. “You have to establish a connection. The strongest bond is between two people. Every website should be designed to try to create a relationship between two people, even b2b sites.”
All of this advice is a good way for small businesses to differentiate themselves, added Grech. “Put yourself out front and make yourself more accessible. People are hungry, especially during Covid, for human to human interaction.”
MORE OF SHAPIRO’S TIPS:
- Even in the e-commerce world, try to get your customer to call you. If someone contacts your company by phone, that’s gold, that is a hot lead. The phone is the most valuable tool you have in your business. Listen to what they have to say – and also how they feel. That provides a connection you can build on. Listen for ways to create relationships, such as the caller sharing some personal information or some detail you can help with.
- Use words to create relationships. “I” has the greatest impact. People hate when you call a company for any reason and they ask what is your name and phone number before anything else. When anyone calls whether it is service, sales or complaint. Say I can help you with that but do you mind if I can ask you a few questions. Always end by asking what other questions do you have? Those questions will let you land more business or better service for the customer
- Don’t ever say no. Always give options when problems or obstacles arrive. Think of how customer-obsessed Zappos is famous for doing whatever it takes to try to help you. The more that you can mimic and recreate the human to human interaction, the higher likelihood you will have lifelong customers.
BizHack’s live webinars are free to the community. Find out about upcoming webinars here. You can find recordings on BizHack’s YouTube channel.
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