9 Customer Retention Strategies For Companies

customer loyalty

Customer retention is on the minds of small and medium-sized businesses across the world. With rising customer acquisition costs, businesses need to innovate and assume a proactive role in retaining clients.

Studies from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have found that acquiring new customers can cost as much as five to seven times more than simply retaining existing customers. The fact that customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer is added incentive for businesses to allocate more resources to sharpening their customer retention strategies.

Before I offer my nine customer retention strategies for businesses, I want to share three reasons, identified in research, your customers may leave you.

  • 68% leave because they are unhappy with the service they receive.
  • 14% are unhappy with the product or service.
  • 9% decide to use a competitor.

The following nine customer retention strategies will give you some inspiration and practical examples to help you improve your customer retention rates. They address the above mentioned problems and provide you with actionable tips you can implement today to maximize your customer retention.

1.  Set customer expectations

The first step to building better customer retention is to set client expectations early. The earlier the better. Don’t wait.

Shannon Kohn from Datto wrote a great article highlighting the importance of companies’ setting expectations through service level agreements (SLAs).

A great way to foster loyal customers is to “under promise and over deliver” on the expectations you originally laid out in the SLA. For instance, Datto states in its customer SLA that any ticket submitted with an “urgent” priority will be replied to within one hour. In reality, the response time on those tickets is closer to five minutes.

By setting expectations early and a tad lower than you can provide, you can eliminate uncertainty as to the level of service you need to offer to ensure your clients are happy. This clear vision enables your company to build KPIs around specific expectations and ensure you are always over delivering.

Clients tend to remember negative experiences. So if you have over delivered on the past 20 occasions, but, once, you undelivered – your client will no doubt quote that negative experience as a reason to cancel his or her contract with you.

Let’s take a look at an example. R & G Technologies, a successful Australian IT Company, has adopted a service-based model that has placed R & G in the top 15% of all managed service providers due to R & G’s response speed (as measured by Client Heartbeat). R & G has implemented strict SLAs, which work tightly with their employees’ KPIs. Jason Neville, General Manager of R & G, explains that his employees are incentivized to meet specific KPIs exceeding client expectations.

All Service Desk staff have 10-15% of their salary tied to delivering on our Service Level Agreements. If we break more than 1 SLA for the month, the entire service desk receives no bonus. Similarly, each individual service desk team member receives a bonus which is tied to the number of tickets they close for the month – so we encourage both individual and team based performance to achieve our goal.

 2.  Be the expert

Small and medium-sized businesses are becoming more and more dependent on services to run their operation. No matter what industry you occupy, if you can be the expert in your particular field, you will likely retain more customers.

Becoming your customers’ trusted advisor will build customer loyalty and reduce customer churn. Let’s revisit the example with R&G Technologies. If you were an IT Company, you should aspire to be the technology guru. Then your responsibilities will transcend the bare minimum your contract entails. If a customer wants advice on the most suitable mobile phone, you better be ready to assist that customer in choosing a device.

Becoming a trusted source on all technology, you build a relationship that leads to a dependency. Your customers will trust you, rely on you to give the best advice, and recognize you as an integral part of their business success.

If you want to build trust with clients, identify industry-specific problems currently facing those clients. Compliance and regulations are popular buzz words among small businesses, so, as an IT Company, this provides a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and build trust with your clients.

Give your clients a quick courtesy call – inform them of upcoming changes and provide some insightful recommendations as to their best plan of attack. This proactive, personalized approach will bolster customer loyalty and render other customer retention strategies more effective.

Chris Herbert, Managing Director of Effective IT, another Australian IT Company with some of the highest ‘Partnership’ scores worldwide (as measured by Client Heartbeat) states:

Being a trusted adviser takes time and a real focus on becoming an integrated part of our client’s businesses. We want to be their one stop technology advisor and that means you have to be comfortable from helping them with everything right from their new mobile phone, to scheduling and running strategic IT meetings. Above all else, I think the reason we have such high partnership scores is our customers trust us implicitly. We always give them unbiased advice even if we don’t make much money in the short term. We know the names of all of the staff that work for our clients. Even something as simple as popping in when one of our team is in the area for a quick, free walk-around builds trust – so they don’t think every time you appear you are selling something or on the clock. If you put their interests first, eventually you are rewarded with trust, and that is the most important part of a long term partnership.

3.  Build trust through relationships

As the age old saying goes, you do business with people you trust. Trust is essential in business, and building relationships with clients will garner that trust.

A study by the African Journal of Business Management found that as trust increases, commitment tends to grow. The study then recommends building trust through shared values.

So what are shared values?

Cultivating shared values means taking an interest in your clients and their business. Do some research on their business, understand how you play a role in their day-to-day activities, and use this information to strengthen your relationship. A good way to start is by asking one simple question the next time you stop by for a quarterly check-up.

“What differentiates you from competitors?” Once they answer, remember that and make a note to do some extra research and find ways that you can assist them with strengthening that point of differentiation through the services you provide. Give them a follow-up call the next week and let them know what you came up with. This shows you have a shared value and are genuinely interested in their business.

Simply providing a service is no longer sufficient– as competitors enter your market, you need to start building shared values with clients and showing you take an interest in them and their success.

This leads me to my next point, implementing a relationship marketing strategy. Relationship marketing is a term that has popped up everywhere in the past couple of years. This is of particular importance because you are a service-based business.

To get you started, here are two quick ideas:

  • Implement a monthly email marketing campaign

This is a lot easier than it sounds. You want to email your existing customers once a month. Touch base with them, inform them of any recent news or services, and share a couple of great articles you think will help them with their business. You should also link to your articles (see below) as a way to drive your customers to your blog.

  • Start a blog

Write a weekly article on something interesting you accomplished that week, an accomplishment you feel your customers would value. Perhaps you began offering a product that can help save your clients 20 minutes a week or released a whitepaper that provides great insight into employee management. Be consistent with your blog and start using it as a way to build relationships with your customers.

4.  Implement anticipatory service

Anticipatory service is a proactive approach to customer service. Instead of waiting for problems to occur, a company that implements anticipatory service can eliminate problems before they happen.

Aspect wrote a white paper, Four Reasons Why Proactive Customer Care Means Customer Loyalty, which explains the science of customer relationships as being simple – the value you get is proportionate to the value you give.

To achieve and maintain this harmony, today’s companies must establish a dialogue with customers that shows an awareness of their information needs and respect for their communication preferences. The more contacts made with a customer, the “stickier” that customer becomes. When customers are consistently given valuable information, this stickiness can form a durable bond of loyalty.

Let’s take a look at two examples of anticipatory service:

  • A major airline proactively texts customers to advise them of flight delays.
  • A corporate billing department alerts customers when an invoice is nearly due.

In both of these examples, the company is taking a proactive approach to what could become a problem that results in a negative experience. With the airline, no one likes to arrive at the airport and discover that the plane has been delayed for 50 minutes. Likewise, with the corporate billing department, you don’t want to be hit up for reminder invoices and late fees when these reminders could have been sent prior to the deadline.

You should be looking at ways you can stop problems from happening by being proactive. A good idea that you can implement today is a quarterly or half yearly on-site check-up.

Let’s see how it works:

So you have a client who hasn’t had any problems for four months. Everything is running smoothly. Your tech guys’ setup was perfect, and there have been no dramas since. Instead of just playing the waiting game, you should schedule an on-site check-up. Have one of your guys check in with your client to see if everything is running smoothly and double check that the processes you set up earlier are all still in place.

By being proactive – you can save yourself a lot of reactive problem fixing in the long run and build the perception that you are the type of company that consistently offers ‘anticipatory service’ with your customers.

5.  Make use of automation

Automation tools allow for time-consuming tasks requiring manual intervention to be standardized into repeatable processes. Companies that leverage automation are able to minimise downtime and keep clients’ networks performing at their best.

Companies are typically bound by contracts that guarantee their services and make them accountable to clients. By leveraging automation tools and streamlining repeatable processes, companies can better meet their commitments.

By standardizing your processes and setting expectations for service levels, you can increase customer loyalty, which will lead to improved customer retention rates.

6.  Build KPI’s around customer service

A great way to improve customer retention is to improve customer service. As outlined at the beginning of this post, 68% of your customers leave because they are dissatisfied with the service.  The team at R&G Technologies faced similar numbers. The team set out to rectify the problems right at the source.

R & G implemented customer service KPIs built around their contractual agreement. This way, every R&G employee’s performance was measured and incentivized based on their level of service, which was closely tied to the client’s goals.

Let’s hear details about this initiative from Jason Neville:

Customer satisfaction is measured quarterly through Client Heartbeat and is tied directly to employee KPIs and compensation. We operate in a model with senior engineers assigned to a group of customers. If they do not achieve 8/10, then they fail to achieve their KPI. This is also tied back into a company goal and bonus structure.

7.  Build relationships online

Your clients are online, so let’s start building relationships with them while they are glued to their computer screens. With the rise of social media, connecting with your clients through these mediums makes sense. I would focus my efforts on building social profiles on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook. The majority of your clients will have active profiles on at least one of these Web sites.

Debra Ellis from Social Media Today asserts that social media is changing the playing field by providing a venue for the one-to-one connections that create unbreakable bonds.

Connecting with customers and building communities takes more effort and time than typical social media acquisition strategies.

To get started, I remember taking the following three actions:

  • First, set up a LinkedIn group, a Twitter profile, and a Facebook page.
  • Include links to your profiles in all future communications with clients.
  • Now use these channels to aggressively communicate with your customers. Start linking out to valuable and relevant content, share your thoughts on topics, and engage with clients who leave comments and feedback.

For companies struggling to find topics to post about on their social media channels, Scott from MSP Business Management recommends the following:

  • Product news updates
  • Short pieces on key news, such as virus outbreaks or high-profile system outages
  • Case studies featuring your clients
  • Reviews of new software
  • Details of new services you offer

8. Go above and beyond

Oftentimes, companies overlook how important this is. Going the extra mile for your customers is an easy way to build strong relationships. As a service business, you have countless opportunities to woo your clients and transcend the minimum.

By doing this, you can build some serious long-term loyalty. If your clients know you are prepared to go above and beyond, they will stick with you when competitors start knocking on their door.

Here are a couple of ways you can go that extra mile for your clients:

  • Pay attention to what your customers want and make their issues your issues – be proactive in addressing them.
  • Isolate potential issues and fix them before they become problems.

9. Implement customer feedback surveys

Customer churn can be avoided by simply listening to your customers. Customer feedback surveys are invaluable for learning how your service is performing in relation to your clients’ expectations.

Qualtrics defines customer retention as being individualized and varied across the kind of product or service provided, the kinds and number of customers served, the longevity and frequency of customer/supplier interactions, and the strategies you have chosen to grow your business.

Client Heartbeat has identified three key metrics you must monitor to measure customer retention most effectively:

  • Firstly, you should monitor customer feedback on an individual level. Comparing feedback across a broad range of customers would be a waste of time. You must narrow the data down to a specific client, see what that client thought, and take action from there.
  • Secondly, you need to trend feedback across a period of time. You should track feedback survey to survey so you can see which areas have improved and which have suffered.
  • Thirdly, you want feedback from customer surveys to provide intelligence. You need it to provide you with data regarding what customers are at risk, which areas of your business need improvement, and where your strengths lie.

This feedback will help you retain clients. By understanding client feedback, you can take action before it’s too late and make business decisions based on real data-driven feedback.

Retain more customers

The above nine customer retention strategies will empower you to not only strengthen your client relationships but also boost your bottom line.

For some further reading, check out these resources:

Tweet This

  • 68% of your customer leave because they were unhappy with the service they received – Click to tweet this
  • To build customer loyalty, you need to become their trusted adviser – Click to tweet this
  • Instead of waiting for problems to occur, use anticipatory service to them before they happen – Click to tweet this
  • By leveraging automation, companies can better meet their commitments – Click to tweet this
  • Customer churn can be avoided by simply just listening to your customers – Click to tweet this

Photo credit: untitledprojects via photopin cc

Updated May 5th, 2014.

Tagged: Customer Retention

About Ross Beard

Ross Beard was on the marketing team at Client Heartbeat, the simple customer feedback tool. Learn how Client Heartbeat makes improving customer satisfaction easy.

  • Kaci

    Retention is my primary business goal this year. This is great info to get me started. Thanks!

    • http://blog.clientheartbeat.com/ Ross Beard

      Good to hear Kaci! There’s lots to be gained from retaining more customers 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post and got something out of it!

  • Darci

    Thank you. It’s easier to retain good customers than it is to find new customers sometimes in this economy.

    • http://blog.clientheartbeat.com/ Ross Beard

      You’re welcome, definitely worth keeping your good customers happy!

  • http://wilsonellisconsulting.com/blog Debra Ellis

    Thank you for the mention!

  • aleena rose

    Found your blog excessively interesting indeed. I really enjoyed studying it.
    dwi new york

  • Blogercup

    Thanks for providing good article on 9 Customer Retention Strategies for companies. http://www.blogercup.com

  • Alastair

    You talk a lot about loyalty but don’t mention any apps! I live in West London and shop owners here are always offering something called Loyalzoo. I really like it but maybe its down to personal preference

  • Pavel Volkov

    For addition I suggest you to read about follow-up strategies http://business-strategy-brs.com/follow-up-marketing-strategy/

  • Christy

    These are great strategies, but what if you implement a retention strategy and you don’t know exactly how it is impacting your business? Shouldn’t there be a process or technology in place that tracks the impact of a retention strategy? http://www.revguard.net

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  • Dirk

    In any business, “Build trust through relationships” is the most vital thing. Businesses are nothing without customers. So always be responsible enough to keep you credibility and integrity. Customers are number one advertisers if you took care of them and if they satisfied of the services that you offer.

    Dirk, http://www.serpshake.com

  • John Paul

    Even small business face fierce competition and to be ahead of time one needs to use advanced software to improve customer service.Onsite CRM , a small business crm ,is an enterprise-wide solution for tracking and staying in touch with new and existing customers, installations, costs, marketing efforts and everything else you need to keep you ahead of the competition and boost your bottom line.

  • http://www.order-flowers.co.uk/ Oliver Yates

    Being more human while dealing with customers, consistent quality interaction with existing customers through social media above all caring for your customers will definitely help in customer retention…Thanks for the post..

  • Jonathan Rawlins

    An interesting article, with lots of useful tips – interesting to compare ideas as we have recently produced an eBook discussing contract retention (aimed at B2B service companies).

  • Jwi

    what are KPIs? Spoken about yet not defined in this article.

    • http://rossbeard.com Ross Beard

      Key performance indicators

  • http://www.fmemodules.com/ Amelia Johns

    You have collected some best tips for retaining the customers but according to me, the root of all these tips is to keep regular followup with customers. The simplest way of that is to send them gift cards at special events like birthday, time of registration on your shop or some other events. It is due to the reason that if you forget you customers, they will also do the same with you.

  • http://www.sendletterly.com Letterly

    Fantastic tips! Might I add that going offline is another great tool to improve the relationship. Sending handwritten cards is a surefire way to break through the digital insanity of the web. 🙂

  • http://www.yotpo.com/ Justin Butlion

    Great post Ross. I especially connected with the parts about automation and setting KPIs. These two approaches can make all the difference in the world.

    Tools like HubSpot, Yotpo, Zendesk and other service/content related tools are great for automating “wow” moments.

    Small things like leaving no comment left behind and investing more in content marketing are some good ways to improve retention. I covered these ideas and others in my recent list post on the topic – http://blog.yotpo.com/2015/07/14/10-ways-to-improve-customer-retention/.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • http://www.marketsideviews.com Priya Nair

    You’ve got some very insightful ideas there Ross. I was especially struck by the one about anticipatory customer service. That’s such a novel thought! One normally advocates treating the customer great when they approach you for help. This takes it to the next level! I recently covered the same topic with a few more thoughts on driving repeat business -http://www.marketsideviews.com/20-smart-ways-to-drive-repeat-business/

    Do let me know what you think of it!

  • Steve Harry

    Here are a few reasons why retaining your existing customers are important for your business.
    It increases ROI: As customer retention is much cheaper than customer acquisition, focusing on retaining customers will increase ROI.
    Loyalty and lifetime value: Customer retention increases loyalty as well as increases lifetime value of customers.

    You can use advertising as the way the retain your existing cusomers.

    How to: http://www.simplilearn.com/customer-retention-using-google-adwords-and-facebook-ads-article

  • Jonathan Nwosu

    Some really great ideas Ross, good work! The best tool to use to increase customer retention rate has to be Sentview.

    At http://www.sentview.com it is possible to find out what customers like and dislike about your product. The feedback obtained from multiple social media platforms can be used by companies to improve customer experience and solve customer problems which is a fantastic way to increase customer satisfaction and customer retention rate.

  • http://www.globalteleforce.com/ Hitesh Parekh

    It is not always easy to keep good customers. So, you need to have a detailed marketing plan and build a good customer relationship to improve customer service and keep a loyal customer.

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    I like your collection, thanks for sharing this wonderful collection of themes with us.i am working in Cloud Erp Software Company In Chennai

  • http://caboliberty.com Damaris Reyes

    I like the information, I think that would be excellent, giving a personalized treatment in many cases if you allow circumstances the power to tend to your customer directly as owner or landlord, only to introduce you to him and let him see how valuable for you’d let see the great interest it represents for you as a customer and for the company.

  • http://www.newkleer.com.au Matthew Heffernan

    Great post. Customer retention is so valuable to any business. It is much cheaper to retain clients than attain new ones – so nailing everything you have listed here is so important for any business. Cheers, Matt from Newkleer.

  • Mike Hopkins

    You’ve got some very insightful ideas there Ross. I was especially struck by the one about anticipatory customer service. That’s such a novel thought! One normally advocates treating the customer great when they approach you for help. This takes it to the next level! I recently covered the same topic with a few more thoughts on driving repeat business on SEO Singapore. let me how you think of it.

  • Adam Smith

    This another one of your great share! May I add also that If you don’t have an expert Virtual Assistant as an entrepreneur or business owners. You can outsource to vendors who got specialization in their field. Also most of the time the outsourced virtual assistant also have specific equipment and technical expertise, as they are doing that for number of years already.

  • Siddarth Sharma

    Thanks for posting a good article. Customers are lifeline of any business.

    “A business can only grow when it moves forward by not losing previous achievements”.

    Customer retention is vital when you are trying to grow your business further. Gartner reports that 80% of the future revenue of a business comes from 20% of their existing customers, while Destination CRM predicts 25%-125% rise in profitability with 5% reduction in churn. Enhancing customer retention needs to be your top priority, and it doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does take focus and commitment. Most of the businesses, today, prefer customer support outsourcing to deliver efficient & customer-oriented services, for a sustainable growth. GizmoSupport helps the service providers to improve their customer experience by providing excellent customer service. Since 12 years, GizmoSupport has been a trusted outsourced customer care and back office support partner for startups & growing companies. When your customers are satisfied with your services, they are likely to refer them to their friends, relatives, and other social contacts.

    Thus, with an effective strategy for quality inbound and outbound customer support services, you can surely retain your existing customers for a long term, increasing demand for your products & services.

  • Brent Labb

    I enjoyed this article. I also read your customer retention article and found that to be very informative. As entrepreneurs I think we get lost in the mind set that acquiring a new customer is the #1 goal. What about retaining the customers we already have? What you said about anticipatory customer service is very true. I think people really trust a company that reaches out to them to make sure everything is going well. I go the extra mile and hand write cards thanking them for their business. This is a great way of separating your business from the crowd. Thanks for the article!

  • http://www.expanderp.com/ Vineet Bansal

    Firstly, an excellent post on customer retention. But according to me ERP Software India with advanced data analytics capabilities too have an important say in this game. They can make future offers customized therefore making the client feel special. This along with offers that would be of real value to customers is the best step forward. Again, a great post

  • https://www.tenfold.com/product Brooke Harper @Tenfold

    This is a great post, Ross! As a customer, I agree that these are things that I look forward to when I do business. I want a business that will not only offer me a product but be in a long term partnership/relationship with me.

    And as a sales professional, I agree with these too because I want my customers to know that we are not only there for the sale but we are there to help them too (after sale support). And hopefully, if ever it’s time to renew our agreement, they’d be satisfied with our offer that they’ll continue to do business with us even if there are competitors that offer the same but at a lower cost.

    Thanks for sharing this and I hope that you keep sharing great topics like this!

  • myra sha

    Very nice post! Thank you, well marketers and advertisers can also try one of the best digital marketing medium moLotus. This innovative and amazing platform is perfect for engaging and retaining customers for lifetime. It fits in your advertising strategy and make it successful. This advertising medium is best to depend upon for customer retention.

  • http://www.semesprit.com/ SEM Esprit

    nice article

  • Khurram Saleem

    Great read…. Good point “implementing a relationship marketing strategy.”

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