By Stan Garber, president of Scout RFP.
It's pretty fundamental, but it bears repeating: Happy customers are at the crux of any successful business. Cultivating a solid and loyal customer base that's in it for the long haul is absolutely essential. Besides the obvious (executing your business to the highest caliber possible), there are also a few key tried-and-true customer retention strategies that we employ.
Customer retention isn't just about setting up a client portal or responding to social media complaints. It's a meaningful way of keeping customers engaged and avoiding that dreaded churn. Here are a few best practices that I've honed over my years of entrepreneurship:
Start From Day One
Customer retention begins even before your customers sign a contract. You want them to have a great experience with your company from the first moment of contact -- whether that's getting a cold call from your sales team, meeting a representative at a conference, or even just seeing a tweet. Once they become customers, we aim to perfect a seamless handoff process.
Many companies take a siloed approach: In pre-purchase stages, customers only interact with sales, and then upon becoming customers they're unceremoniously farmed out to account management. This is, to put it bluntly, a customer retention disaster waiting to happen. With an all-hands-on-deck approach to onboarding, the customers and internal teams will feel at ease working together before they even start.
Promote a One-Company Culture
We aim to act as an entire account team - not separate departments passing along a checklist from one hub to another. This promotes brand loyalty from the very beginning and then helps foster long-term loyalty among our customers. We want every step of the customer experience to be easy, enjoyable and seamless.
Consider assigning every customer to a dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM) who will act as a trusted advisor to see them through their (hopefully) lifelong experience with your business. This go-to point person is a crucial figure, but you should also make sure that customers have access to other people in the company (marketing, executives, etc.) who might be able to round out the customer experience.
Gauge Success Through the Customer's Eyes
The key to creating -- and keeping -- happy customers is to ace your communication, both among your internal team and with the customer. Break it down into three areas: regular reviews, internal visibility, and feedback. We conduct a detailed quarterly review to monitor each customer's progress. Ultimately, we want to make sure that we measure up in terms of the customer's standards.
Remember, happy customers equal long-term customers: If something isn't meeting their expectations, it should be flagged and addressed as soon as possible. Like any successful relationship, good communication is key when it comes to dealing with customers.
If a customer has expressed some challenges or frustrations, make sure you have a clear plan of attack. If the frustration is around a capability that your business doesn't currently support, have open conversations with the client about the best way your company could mitigate their dissatisfaction, whether it be through building out a new function or brainstorming alternative pathways to success. Even if a resolution isn't made quickly, the fact that it's being addressed and worked on can make all the difference.
Customer churn is an issue that all businesses have to face. However, taking a few simple steps, like the ones outlined above, can go a long way in creating happy (and therefore, longstanding) customers. By prioritizing the customer experience and keeping them at the center of everything you do, you can help grow a long-term relationship that's destined for success.
Stan Garber is the president of Scout RFP and sets the marketing and growth strategy.