As we approach the 2017 AME "Get Engaged" Conference in Boston this Fall, I’d like to give you some ways to increase engagement with your customers. Customers can be fickle about which vendors they “choose” to have relationships with, regardless of engagement tactics you use, and you never want to find that your competition cherry-picked your best customers because they won the engagement game.
This post will help you build the type of engagement and retention plan that fits your customers’ view of the desired relationship.
Customer retention and loyalty is about taking the time to understand what kind of value your customers want from you and building it into your engagement and retention strategy, because make no mistake: the customer, not the company, always manages the “relationship.” Share these fun and classic quotes about customer loyalty with your team to boost their creative juices.
Four Fabulous Ways to Improve Customer Engagement and Retention
- Leverage the power of “No Fuss, No Muss”: Sometimes customers just want a simple transaction. When going to an ATM, fueling your car, going to the post office, or stopping off at a convenience store you simply want the transaction to be efficient, cost-effective, and fulfill your needs. When your customers are re-ordering parts or supplies, they’re the same way – make it quick, and make it easy! How can you engage them by making it as close to Amazon’s gold-standard of “Buy with 1-click” as possible? If the experience you create is friction-free and pleasant, they’ll come again. If the experience is time-consuming or requires them to go through flaming hoops or re-enter information you should already know about them, they’ll find a plan B. How does the experience you create help drive engagement, loyalty and retention with your customers?
- Be THE go-to brand. If you drink soda, you’re probably strongly loyal to Coke OR Pepsi, and don’t switch just because one is on sale. You likely have a preferred airline even if your wallet is full of loyalty cards for all of them, and even if you can’t always fly with your first choice you’ll still check out their flights first. It’s the same in business-to-business. If you have brand power working for you as a manufacturer, your customers will engage with you and remain loyal as long as your brand fulfills their expectations of the value and experience that draws them to you. If you DON’T have brand power… well, go back to #1 and make the experience as easy and compelling as possible. Where does brand loyalty fit as a factor for engaging your customers, and have you leveraged that in your retention plan?
- Earn trust. A deeper level of interaction is appropriate when value-add and problem-solving are important components of the relationship – think about your financial planner, or who you trust to repair your car. As a manufacturer, you may be involved in fulfilling mission-critical needs, or you may be the difference between costly downtime vs profitable up-time. Willingness to share information, go above and beyond, problem-solve in creative ways, and get it right the first time or make it right immediately if you didn’t are the core elements of value-add efforts. Deliver, and you’ll engage existing customers and earn the kind of trust that drives customer loyalty. Do you give your customers every reason to trust you every time you engage with them, at every level? Or do you let them down or give cause for doubt?
- Build an authentic relationship. High risk, high reward scenarios call for true customer relationship building, where both parties are constantly in communication, practically living in each others’ pockets, and committed to the same outcome. The focus is less on selling and more on partnering, hence engagement has a lot to do with listening carefully to the voice of the customer and focusing on the health of the long-term relationship in order to retain them longer. If that describes your business, how would your customers rate you on a scale of 1-10? What would it take to earn a 10? Don’t guess… ASK!
How to engage your customers by building the right customer retention and loyalty plan
Most businesses find that one of the four factors above will be the primary key to keeping their customers for longer, although they’re ALL important. It’s critical to identify which of these is the biggest driver for your business, and then optimize it.
As you analyze which of the factors affecting customer engagement and retention apply to your business, don’t make the mistake of assuming that all of your customers want a #4-type relationship with you. Take the time to determine whether their preferred approach has to do with your brand, with seamless transactions, with value-add interactions, or with relationships that help them achieve their goals more quickly and easily. When you find the sweet spot and deliver, you’ll earn the customer engagement, loyalty and retention you deserve.
Download the complimentary Which Strategy to Retain Customers is Right for You? and use the matrix to help you determine which quadrant you should be in.
What is the most effective strategy you’ve ever found to retain existing customers?