How to Keep Customers Coming Back

How to Keep Customers HappyIt’s often said that it costs five times more to acquire a customer than to retain a customer. As a small business owner, you must focus on retention and that starts with knowing your customers, listening to them, and constantly using their feedback to improve your business. Here are smart ways to keep customers coming back.

Know your customers.
Organize your list of clients using a simple Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool such as Insightly or the multi-faceted Saleforce. Identify the factors that make your customers different. It could be the amount they spend with you, the products they buy, the channel they purchase through and/or a demographical trait. Create the fields in the CRM system for tagging each customer with these core traits and input the information you have.

If you don’t have client information, start asking for it at the point of sale or post sale. Communicate why you are requesting this information (to better serve the customer) and collect at a minimum name, email, phone, city and country. Also, consider tracking sales leads to help analyze your client conversion rate.

Loyalty cards are an everyday example of a way to gather client information. Stores receive the customer’s contact information and spending habits in exchange for discounts and coupons. Other ways to build your customer list include a sweepstakes or contest, discounts for registered customers or signups for events such as a speaker series or webinar.

Integrate the CRM system with your email, social media accounts and any other customer communication tools so you always have complete visibility of your customer interactions.

Communicate regularly.
With the information you collected and the segmentation of your customers you can better focus and personalize your messaging.

Seek opportunities to speak to your customers—on birthdays, for store events, or after a sale to thank them for their purchase and ask about their experience. The goal is to ensure your customer feels valued.

Segmenting your customers and tracking your communications with them can also help you identify customers where the client service time to sales ratio is off balance. Do not be afraid to let a customer go if they are distracting you from other more valuable customers.

Listen for feedback.
In your online or offline communications, make it clear how a customer can reach you with questions or complaints. Be sure the feedback process is tracking who the customer is and categorizing the type of feedback and the subject it covers.

Then, monitor these channels closely. It’s devastating to your customer relationships if you elicit feedback and then ignore it. Once you have the processes in place, run a test to experience feedback from the customer’s perspective. Evaluate how you are treated, how your staff performs and if the feedback follows all the way through the process you designed.

You won’t be able to solve each issue, but you must let the customer feel heard and know the company and you, the owner, received it and will take it into account.

It’s also important to monitor and respond to criticism that may occur on outside sites, such as TripAdvisor, if you own a hotel or restaurant. When a company responds on a site, a reviewer feels heard and prospective customers see the owner and staff are working to address any issues.

Use what you learn as a catalyst for change. 
Most feedback falls into two categories: a problem or a suggested change. Make sure your staff is trained to address the problems and questions that arise—and involve them in making improvements that may prevent these issues down the road.  You may even want to consider, linking a portion of their pay or bonus to results of the feedback process.

Finally, share the changes and improvements with your customers. Ensure they feel you are always listening and improving your business to better serve them. This improved interaction will inspire loyalty and increase customer retention.

Follow Ian Haet on Twitter @IanHaet and learn more about his experience with customer retention

Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana wears many hats: author, angel investor, mentor, TEDx speaker, steering committee of the NASSCOM Start-Up Warehouse, Director of Founder Institute, Venture Partner with the seed initiative of a top Venture Capital firm, and former CEO of IIT Bombay’s business incubator, among others. Before all this, he was entrepreneurial twice in the field of education and web publishing. As a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, he taught e-commerce back in 1993, when the term "e-commerce" had not yet been coined. An undergrad in computer engineering from the University of Mumbai, and an MBA from the University of Texas, Ajeet is presently an active name in the startup ecosystem. From starting two ventures as a solopreneur, to helping a large number of startups with their go-to-market, he has never shied from getting his hands dirty. At the same time he has helped dozens of startups raise investment. He truly believes that small business owners are driving change in the world, and need to be facilitated as much as possible. Innumerable small businesses have gained from his attitude, vast professional networks, financial acumen and digital mindset.

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