It is widely known in business that it is easier to keep existing clients than to recruit new ones. If you have a steady base of clients, you can make more accurate forecasts and rely on a more stable income stream. You also have the opportunity to get to know your customer base and find out how you can better serve them.
There are a lot of businesses doing an amazing job when it comes to client retention. These organisations think outside the box and go above and beyond to offer excellent service and loyalty benefits to their customers.
I’ve dug out a few examples of businesses which really shine in this area, ranging from local car dealerships to major online vendors. What’s interesting is that no matter what size these businesses are, they all have customer satisfaction at the core of everything they do.
National Capital Hyundai
Let’s face it, car service and repair businesses are a dime a dozen. If you wanted to, you could visit a different mechanic every time you break down or need a checkup for your vehicle.
Even though it’s not my closest car mechanic, I always go back to National Capital Hyundai. Yes, they perform the same mechanical repairs as any other supplier but it is the little things which make a difference.
On occasion, I have been running late to pick up my vehicle. This has not been a problem as the staff have stayed back to wait for me. As a flat out business owner, this extra few minutes of patience at their end can make a huge difference to my entire week.
Each time I get the car back, there is something that makes me smile, for example it has been given a good wash or there is a thank you note and a small bag of jelly beans inside. There is always a follow up email a few days later to make sure things are running the way they should be.
After going to National Capital Hyundai for years, I feel like the team knows me and understands the nuances of my vehicle. For this reason, I always go back, even if I could be getting cheaper services somewhere else.
Hyundai is not a luxury car line, however this service centre in particular mimics what you would get with a high end brand like Mercedes or BMW. Their clever strategy not only keeps me as a service and repair customer, it will strongly motivate me to stick to the same make of car next time I am looking to upgrade.
You know a company is doing something right when it has an international reputation despite not shipping around the world.
Zappos is hardly unique in that it sells shoes online. What it does differently, however, is offer some of the world’s leading customer service. When you buy shoes from this retailer, you have an ENTIRE YEAR to return them if you don’t like them or if they don’t fit. Zappos even takes care of the cost of shipping.
[You have 365 days to decide you don’t like the shoes you bought from Zappos]
Founder Tony Hsieh set up Zappos with the sole goal of making the customer happy. When you work there, you must undergo four weeks of customer service training before you’re allowed to answer a phone call. At the end of your training, if you’re not so excited to continue, the business will pay you $2000 to leave.
At Zappos, instead of having time-spent targets, call centre agents are focused on one thing – satisfaction. There is a legendary story that the longest time a Zappos team member ever spent on the phone with a single customer was ten hours and 43 minutes. Talk about dedication!
Another story shares how a customer called Zappos very distressed that she didn’t have the right shoes to wear to a conference. Zappos itself was out of stock but the agent, who happened to be in the same city, went and located a pair of shoes at a rival store and took them to the customer.
As reported on the eTail West website, in 2015, Zappos decided to deliver a free gift to every household in Hanover, New Hampshire (a town reportedly heavy with customers particularly loyal to Zappos). Nearly 1,900 gift boxes were personally delivered by more than 30 Zappos employees. It’s not surprising that 75% of Zappos purchases come from returning customers.
The strategy works; in 2009 it was reported that 44 percent of first-time Zappos customers had heard about the retailer through word of mouth. The business maintains legendary status amongst its customers and corporate supporters.
Australian brand Jeanswest offers three levels of membership for its clients. When you begin shopping there, you are offered a ‘Bronze’ membership, giving you five percent off in return for spending $150 over 12 months. This progresses to Silver and then Gold, which gives shoppers 15 percent off full priced items.
By joining the customer rewards program, shoppers are sent email invitations notifying them of sales ahead of other buyers. They are given access to members only shopping events, including 40 percent off, storewide sales.
Jeanswest also offers loyal customers the incentive to become an invite only ‘Platinum’ member, which offers 15 percent off plus further exclusive benefits.
[Sign in to Jeanswest and be reminded of your member discount with each product you view]
This brand’s customer retention strategy also includes regular email communication. Customers receive messages about new season launches, fashion updates and special deals, giving them almost weekly motivation to shop with the brand.
Jeanswest has received Roy Morgan’s Australian Clothing Store of the Year award for two years running, based on consumer data. These Australian reflect the experiences of some 50,000 consumers, as aggregated in Roy Morgan’s Single Source survey over 12 months.
Fox Property Management
Another locally based Canberra business, Fox Property Management completely obliterates the reputation many real estate agencies have for being lazy and unresponsive.
Over the last 12 months, this property management agency has not lost a single customer to another agency. They do this by providing an amazing phone service to both clients and tenants. The policy at Fox Property is to treat nobody like a second class citizen, to be truly responsive and to take care of problems as soon as they arise.
Like car dealerships, real estate agents are a dime a dozen. With so much competition out there, the businesses which succeed in the long term really do go above and beyond to offer true service to their clients.
At Fox, as well as being able to retain their customer base, the business is able to leverage their clients to win new ones. Take a look at their website and Facebook page and you will see reviews along the lines of “You are an exceptional human” and “Property Management needs someone like (owner) Penny”.
[Good customer feedback is worth its weight in gold]
As Fox Property Management has discovered, happy clients are not only loyal, they spread the word like wildfire.
Ever heard of ‘the Starbucks way’? For the people who work there, this involves looking each customer in the eye, greeting them and smiling. Every time.
Starbucks may not have the best quality coffee on the market. The reason people go there is they know exactly what they are going to get. This includes clean facilities, free wifi and welcoming customer service. Customers are also welcome to sit for as long as they like. Starbucks doesn’t mind, because it knows they will be back tomorrow.
This mega-brand has clear customer care policies which involve Listening, Acknowledging, Taking Action, Thanking the customer and Explaining why the problem occured (which spells LATTE, by the way). Staff are trained, reminded and constantly checked on to make sure they are representing the brand in the best light at all times.
[Starbucks encourages an open dialogue with its customers]
Starbucks is also on the cutting edge of customer experience technology. Using the Starbucks app, customers can pay with their phones and even order ahead. There is also an entire website dedicated to ‘My Starbucks Idea’, a virtual suggestion box which has resulted in several new policies, products and initiatives. As the business enters more challenging times, it is focusing on increased personalisation. This will enable servers to make suggestions based on past orders and even acknowledge their customers on their birthdays.
Another brand I simply had to mention is Apple. Not only does their service feel second to none (have you ever seen someone not smiling for even a second in one of their stores?) but they have a strategy which has many of us committed to being lifetime users
Apple has cleverly locked its customers into using their products. If you have a Mac in your office at home, you may as well match it with an Apple TV device so you can stream content on your television. If you want to make the most of iTunes and iPhoto, you may as well get an iPhone.
Customers stay with Apple because they can’t be bothered making a switch! You can’t deny that is an effective customer retention strategy. It can also inspire you to think about how you can create a similar strategy for your business.