Customer Retention: How Small Businesses Win the War

Starting a business is exciting, crazy, exhilarating, and nuts. You’ve got to find investors, perfect your business model, create a marketing strategy, and sell away. But the insanity doesn’t end there. Once you get your company going — starting from your very first sale — you’ve got a major challenge on your hands: customer retention. How do you keep the customers you earn?

Customer loyalty has been spiraling downward for years now — in part because companies aren’t taking care of their most valuable asset. Instead, many companies today focus their attention on acquiring new customers. And if the old customers are forgotten, why wouldn’t they go somewhere else? After all, according to the 2018 Connected Customer Report, 84% of consumers say being treated like a person (not a number) is the key to their business, and 76% say it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.

Can your startup or small business compete with those high expectations? Absolutely. Because while those numbers seem intimidating, today’s smaller businesses are actually better equipped to provide one thing consumers care about: personal relationships. Here’s how.

Create a customer-centric culture.

Young companies are often so focused on the latest-and-greatest customer acquisition strategies that they forget to build customer loyalty efforts into their programs. But companies aiming for responsible growth and long-term success have to put customers at the forefront of every decision. As a small business, you’re able to shape the culture of your company as it moves forward, so build customer success right into the heart of your model. How do you take the first step to putting the customer first? Easy. Listen to them. Hear their needs.

Operate with transparency and trust.

Today’s market is fierce, and even a repeat customer who’s received great service can be lured away by a competitor. If you want to prevent attrition, you have to build your customer relationships on trust and accountability. 95% of consumers say they’re more likely to be loyal to a company they trust. So don’t let your business fall into those metaphorical silos; operate with honest transparency and you’ll build bonds with your customers that go well beyond any customer satisfaction (CSAT) score.

Offer uniquely personal service.

The “customer experience” has been on so many business trend lists this year for a good reason: Today’s consumers want a unique journey. Data shows that 87% of small and medium businesses believe receiving a personalized experience is important to their customers, yet only 33% of SMBs are using technology to manage customer data and offer a consistent flow. That’s a major discrepancy. Consider investing in technology like chatbots and help centers, which help many customers receive quick service, while also allowing your agents to offer personal service to those who really need it.

The common theme: Relationships.

Today’s companies are no longer competing on price and features; the buzzword is customer experience. To win and retain customers, you have to offer personal, ongoing relationships and a transparent experience. How do you do that? A basic CRM system like Salesforce Essentials helps you track customer data, analyze the information that comes in, and ensure every inquiry receives the proper response.

Think about your business. If you were selling your product to family and friends, would you do everything the same way you’re doing it now? If you want to keep your customers, you’ve got to think of them more like friends — close friends. Friends you spend holidays with. That’s how you retain customers and grow your business.

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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