A new customer relationship is a beautiful thing. They’re happy. You’re happy. Everybody’s happy. But maintaining customer relations takes hard work.
Even if nothing goes wrong, relationships can still deteriorate. It doesn’t take long for customers to grow bored, lose interest, and move on. And detecting when relationships are going stale is easier said than done. It’s not like anyone’s sending e-mails to give some sort of last chance notice before leaving.
The truth is that most of us are too busy drumming up new business to pay any attention to customer attrition. And therein lies the problem. In our efforts to find more customers we unknowingly create an ongoing churn cycle. We exhaust ourselves trying to win new customers faster than our old customers leave. Addressing symptoms doesn’t resolve the problem.
Focusing on the funnel doesn’t patch the pail.
Luckily, St. Valentine provides us with a great opportunity to get started on the patchwork. It’s the perfect time to reignite the passion that’s missing in our relationships, personal and business alike. Follow these 3 steps to use Valentine’s Day to your advantage and keep customers from breaking up with you.
Give Gifts and Keep on Giving
There’s nothing quite like receiving a gift. What better occasion than Valentine’s Day to send some love in a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine?
Gifts, even of the smallest size, are a powerful demonstration of affection. And I’m not talking about the, “Happy Valentine’s Day, here’s a coupon for our services!” kind of gift. I’m talking about the honest-to-goodness, no-strings-attached kind of gift that leaves an impression and warms the receiver’s heart.
Gifts send one of two messages:
- I’m lucky to be your friend
- I want to be your friend
So if you haven’t received any gifts lately, maybe that should tell you something…
Haha, just kidding.
All joking aside, most businesses don’t even bother sending gifts to their customers. It’s often filed under customer service and seen as an expense rather than an investment. In reality, though, buying something special for customers can be one of the most impactful customer retention strategies. Just remember that it’s an investment in the relationship, not a mutual fund!
Application: Send thoughtful gifts to each of your customers on Valentine’s Day. The key word here being “thoughtful.” A scarf for customers up North, a fruit basket for the healthier crowd, a monthly coffee club subscription for the caffeine addicts, etc. The gifts don’t have to be expensive and they don’t even have to be Valentine’s Day-related, but they absolutely must be personalized to your customers. Just like any other gift, “it’s the thought that counts.”
How do you find out what gifts your customers would like to receive? Read the next tip!
Be Interested and Become Interesting
I’m sure we’ve all come across a Derek Zoolander in our lives; no matter how interesting the person may be, it’s ruined by his narcissism. There’s a big difference between asking questions to learn about someone and listening to that person drone on and on about himself voluntarily. Imagine being in a relationship with someone like that. The horror!
Even scarier: what if that’s how your customers feel about you? Yikes!
Are e-mail newsletters and content marketing just other ways to promote products and services? Are phone calls to “catch up” or “check in” nothing more than attempts to sell something? Or maybe there’s simply no communication at all, and customers assume they must not be worth the trouble. Not exactly the message you want to send, right?
Let’s look through our customers’ eyes.
The very first purchase is a transactional interaction: we offer a service, and our customers compensate us. To “keep in touch” we send information about sales specials, new product releases, and company highlights. But these communiqués only reinforce the original foundation of the relationship: it’s all about the Benjamins.
So when customers find another provider who offers what they need and does it faster or cheaper, is there any wonder why they jump ship? After all, we’ve given them no reason to think of our relationship as anything more than transactional.
The panacea for customer turnover is valuing customers more than their wallets. Make friends, not contacts. Build relationships, not business.
Application: Make a point to take an interest in your customers this Valentine’s Day. Stop talking and start listening. Follow them on Twitter, friend them on Facebook, add them on Google+, and sign up for their newsletters. Pay attention to what they say; take the time to retweet, like, and share their posts. Read their blog and leave comments. Engage with your customers.
Ask your customers for their opinions. What could you be doing better? What kind of solutions would they like to see your company offer? How can you make their lives easier? Take their input to heart. Incorporate it into your service. Offer your help for free!
Discover your customers’ wants and needs. Send an e-mail questionnaire to learn about their biggest fears and aspirations. Act on the information by connecting them to resources that can help them address their concerns and attain their goals.
When your customers see how much interest you take in them, they will take an interest in you. But it requires some effort so don’t expect results overnight. Some customers won’t respond, and that’s okay. For those that do respond, you’ll eventually need to show that you’re serious about a long-term customer relationship. Here’s how.
Set a Date to Date
By now your customers know that you have pure intentions; you care more about what you can do for them than what they can do for you. So they should have no questions about your motives when you take the relationship to the next level and ask them to go on a date.
A business date may not seem like that big of a deal, especially if you’ve already spent time with your customers face-to-face. You’ve probably arranged a number of meetings to help you achieve important business objectives: close the sale, discuss a project, deliver your service, etc. But this time it isn’t about you; it’s about your customers.
Application: Call your customers on Valentine’s Day and say you’d like to go on a “business date” with them. Tell them that you want to hear about how things are going. Have they had any recent news? Any accomplishments to celebrate? Any challenges to overcome? Have they made progress towards the goals that they’ve told you about?
Encourage your customers. Compliment them on what they’re doing well, and tell them why you think they are great companies. Find out what new objectives they have on the horizon, and ask what you can do to support them.
The purpose of the meeting is to highlight your customers. The focus is on them.
Spread The Love This Valentine’s Day
Take advantage of the unique opportunity that Valentine’s Day gives you to strengthen your relationships with your customers. Surprise them with a gift, show interest in them, and encourage them in-person. You may find that you’ll have several Valentines this year!