Old customers are easy to neglect because of the presumption that their business is ‘locked in’. Therefore we figure that our time is better spent looking for new customers.
This is not a smart thing to do when you consider that it’s 10 times cheaper to keep an old customer than to get a new one. It’s also unwise because customers typically don’t have a contract to keep doing business with you.
While they may not complain, neglected customers will probably leave and go where they can get more attention and better service.
Here are 8 easy ways to keep your old customers happy and gain repeat business:
- Listen keenly – listening implies that you are tuned in to what your customers are talking about. In order to listen you may need to follow them around – on Twitter or Linkedin, you may need to set up Google Alerts (with key-words that relate to their challenges or pain-points), or subscribe to an industry magazine that addresses their issues.
- Respond quickly – As soon as you’re aware that an old customer is experiencing a problem that you can solve, reach out to them quickly and let them know that you would like to help. By the way it’s always a good idea to respond using the same platform that the customer used in the first place. If they communicated their problem via a blog comment, respond to them on the same blog platform. Later on you can decide to take the conversation off-line if it suits them.
- Stay connected – Make sure that you don’t fall off an old customer’s radar. Keep in touch through your monthly newsletter or call them occasionally to share some exciting industry news. You may also consider organizing a webinar, a Lunch n’ Learn or training session and inviting all your existing customers, both old and new.
- Go to them – If they’re at a location that is easily accessible you may find it worth your while to drop by and pay them a visit. Call in advance and let them know that you’d like to buy them lunch or coffee. Use that opportunity to find out what they’ve been doing since you last had contact with them. This is also a good time to let them know what’s new in your world and to show them the value that you can add to their organization.
- Give them free stuff – One of the reasons that old customers feel neglected is because their vendors tend to save all their goodies for new customers. One way to show appreciation to old customers is to give them freebies. Customer retention doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be smart and sincere. Consider sending them something relevant and resourceful like free product or several issues of their industry trade journal. Whatever you spend is a drop in the ocean compared to what you would spend on advertising to attract new customers.
- Give them priority: This is another way to show your appreciation for their long-standing business with you. Again it doesn’t have to be costly but it should be something that they will appreciate. You may consider offering them priority customer service, priority shipping on a new product or preferred customer discounts.
- Ask them what to do – Every year send out a customer survey asking your customers the following questions (more if you like): What should we start doing; What should we stop doing; and what should we keep doing? Your customers will be happy to know that you care about their opinion and will gladly tell you what you’d like to know. This is also an opportunity to keep the conversation going on social media networks.
- Send a card – Find opportunities to send hand-written cards to your customers. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and thank you cards are all fantastic opportunities to pamper old customers, particularly because sending cards is a lost art and very few people do it. Your customers are not likely to forget that kind gesture.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated and your customers are no different. Don’t take for granted the value that an old customer brings to your business. An old customer is a potential source for repeat business as well as referrals and the way to make sure that you get both is to treat them well and let them know that they’re more valuable than an account in your ledger.
What other methods have you used to keep old customers happy?