Loyal, repeat customers are often the key to long term business success, but it takes a lot of time and effort cultivating relationships to build such a customer base. Customer retention requires great communication, and it must be leveraged properly to achieve the financial and business benefits you want. While it does take time, it does not have to be a difficult process. There are a number of simple and effective ways to develop your communications channels to deliver your messaging and collect usable feedback and actionable data.
Traditional communications still have their place in the modern business world, and brochures, emails, letters, and incentive materials are a good way to get started. However, communications should be a two-way street. It’s not about speaking TO your customers. It’s about starting a conversation WITH them.
Develop Your Ideal Customer Profile – And Be Ready to Ignore It
Building out a profile of your ideal customer base is an important first step in the communications process. You need to know who you are speaking to in order to tailor your market message and show how you fill a need. It’s important to understand more about their personality types and behavior so you can address their needs and expectations. Do they expect to see a friendly, open company? Do they want a variety of options and alternatives from you? What incentives will inspire them to work with you?
Just remember that no two customers are the same. There will be similarities, of course, and a number of valid generalizations, but, in the end, you have to be ready to modify or completely throw away your profile to keep up with a dynamic market. Customers don’t like to be anonymously categorized and forgotten. They want to know you are actually concerned about their individual needs and situations.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
A customer satisfaction survey is an effective way to gather actionable data and determine whether or not your efforts are having the desired effect. There are a lot of modern options and tools to accomplish this, including live agent phone surveys, IVR phone surveys, SMS and web surveys.
There’s a science to creating good surveys, though. It is easy to produce a series of questions that seem to illicit the exact responses you want – which doesn’t help anyone. You need unbiased feedback to develop your company, and you need to be prepared to act on the information you gather. Remember, this is just the start of the conversation. Once you make the necessary changes, inform your customers how their input influenced your choices, and continue to make getting feedback a priority.
Keep Your Customer Informed
Social media has opened up companies for the whole world to take a peek inside, and many customers have come to expect this kind of inclusion from businesses. They want to feel like participants, not just a source of revenue. Keep them informed as much as you can. Don’t leave them in the dark, especially if you’re having technical problems, shortages, or outages. Be direct and upfront, and you may be surprised just how much positive response this generates. It’s true that they won’t always understand – or even agree with – your decisions, but when they see how you reached this point, it can help turn a little communication into a big community.
Avoid Emotional or Heated Responses
No matter how open your communication is, someone won’t understand what you’re trying to do and send you some very heated, disparaging, and even degrading comments. Sometimes the harshest criticism, though, is the most effective.
You don’t have to be defensive to defend your position. Understand that you can’t please everyone all the time and that customers will inevitably register their displeasure. Don’t react without thinking. Take the time to reread their comments and see if you are misinterpreting their intent. Then, when you respond, you can do so carefully and considerately. Avoid arguments and aim for discussions.
Track Industry Changes
If you start to fall behind industry trends, your efforts at communication will start to seem outdated. You’ll be putting out a message that the customers have heard many times before and would rather leave behind. Make sure your efforts are relevant, based on the needs of the consumer and the fluctuations in the marketplace. Take the time to read industry news and blogs. Follow conversation that is happening in the industry, and not just within your own company.
Improving communications with customers will take time and effort. It’s not something you can outsource or expect to manage “when you have some extra time.” Develop a full understanding of your customers and find ways to have meaningful conversations and your efforts will be rewarded with increased profitability and long-lasting relationships.
Contributed by Telesight.com – the leaders in customer satisfaction research and surveys.
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