Retained customers help keep the lights on. They tend to spend more and are familiar with how your systems work so it ends up saving you a lot of time and energy. Just how much?

Well, the Harvard Business Review estimates it can be anywhere between 5 to 25 times cheaper to hold on to existing customers than it is to try to woo new ones. The average global value of a lost customer is estimated to be a whopping $243. 

If you look at your customers as lifelong customers instead of just fleeting acquaintances, they’re much more likely to keep coming back for more. Clearly conveying that you’re a human to human and heart to heart business will make customers feel like they’re part of a family. Or in keeping with the previous friend comparison, a member of an all-inclusive clique.

But how exactly do you go about creating a nurturing customer service strategy that keeps people engaged and happy? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but the following suggestions are expected to go a long way towards building friendships that result in customer retention. 

Source: GIPHY

Use gamification to make things exciting

Gamification, according to the Interaction Design Foundation, is a technique whereby gameplay elements are inserted into non-gaming settings so as to enhance user engagement with a product or service. Adding features like leaderboards and badges serve to tap customers’ intrinsic motivations and manifest greater levels of enjoyment.

When done well, referral and point systems can benefit greatly from embedded gamification features. Discounts and rewards can go far in helping get people invested and gamifying the journey towards the reward will really add some oomph and further incentivize the experience. 

Plain and simply put, people enjoy interactivity. By yielding the power of motivation, mastery and/ or triggers your customers can enjoy their interactions with your business even more and will be far more likely to tell their friends. 

This article provides some essential tips for how you can go about adding gamification to your customer loyalty strategy. Everything from goal-setting to making winning easy to understand is outlined. 

Launch a standout customer education program

Customer trainings have come a long way from the days of million-page manuals and expensive onboarding workshops. Customer Education Programs that provide 24/7 support are the norm now and, if done well, proves to be an excellent long-term investment in your customer base. 

By empowering customers to educate themselves via the use of tools and resources like a knowledge base of product walk-throughs, you equip them with readily available solutions. This, in turn, results in the successful use of your products and services making everyone a happy camper. 

The infographic below shows how customer education can benefit your business from initial interaction and throughout the customer’s journey.  

Image Source: LearnUpon

When designing or revamping your Learning Management System, you’d do well to learn from companies like Hubspot which provides additional courses that cover generic marketing, sales, and customer service topics via their HubSpot Academy

Another great example can be seen in Apple’s ‘Today at Apple’ feature, a creative initiative offered in Apple’s retail stores around the world with the goal of educating and inspiring customers to go further with their passions and the products they love. Since 2017 when apple rolled this out in all retail stores, Today at Apple has grown to offer 1,000,000 sessions per year attended by millions of people. Classes include augmented reality, photography, music and much more.

Customers are as a result educated on how they can use the tools as apart of their practical everyday workflow. So get creative. You really can’t go wrong with this strategy for optimizing customer success. 

Capitalize on social proof

Image Source: WorkArea.com

The fact of the matter is: customers of all ages trust online reviews. Interestingly though, Generation Z, the up and coming mobile-savvy spenders, are hungry for information and particularly interested in having questions answered by previous customers. So investing effort into amassing social proof is a wise long-term investment.

Featuring your online reviews adds to your social proof while also increasing consumer trust. If you’re not already working to increase your online reviews, you should be. Start by actively asking customers to leave reviews and provide feedback. Then get to work optimizing your listings on various platforms. 

Highlighting customer testimonials and success stories will not only help to bring in new customers but will also serve to convince existing customers to stick around or upgrade if possible. Supplying evidence of your business’ results always helps to mitigate doubts as does placing emphasis on continuously improving.

Thank your customers

Wufoo is an online forms builder known for decorating and delivering personalized handwritten thank-you cards to customers since day one. This has translated into 50% better retention rates among customers who receive a thank-you note, according to their Customer Ops Team Lead. 

Image source: NewMediaCampaign

They clearly understand and benefit from the value of an old-school, handwritten, personal customer service approach. Not to mention thank-you notes are one of the most low-cost high-impact customer retention strategies.

But fear not if you’re a solopreneur or have limited manpower/ no time/ terrible penmanship. The whole point of the thank you is to make customers feel special and cared for. It doesn’t have to be a physical card. If you have an online store, start thinking up ways of better utilizing your thank you page. 

Here’s an article that discusses the anatomy of a perfect thank you page, spanning confirmation messages, calls to action and instructions on what to do next. In the grand scheme of things, the relationship-building is well worth the relatively minimal investment. So get to work thinking up doable inventive ways of saying thank you.

For additional inspiration, consider these epic examples of companies from various industries that have gone all out with their customer appreciation ideas.

Build a one of a kind customer rewards program and community

Loyal customers deserve to be shown appreciation. But with rewards programs now being offered left, right and center, you really have to be thoughtful and come up with more and more innovative ways to encourage advocacy. Creating a forum or discussion board on your website is one such way. A medium for exchanging ideas, questions and solutions can serve to create better connections with customers and followers while building a sense of community. 

But have you ever received a thank you card from your favourite neighbourhood supermarket? What about a birthday card from your most beloved designer store? Your ideas need not be limited to the ordinary – think outside the box and go as wild as you can.  Here are 10 examples of innovative customer loyalty programs to help inspire your brainstorming. 

People love special treatment. So receiving perks and incentives for purchasing from a business they’d buy from anyway, doesn’t hurt. As shown in the infographic below, 52% of loyal consumers will join a rewards or VIP program if one is offered to them. 

Image Source: Yotpo

Remember, reciprocity works wonders. By treating your most loyal customers to special rewards, they’ll want to stick around and spend more. In fact, the Adobe Digital Index Report worked out that around 40% of US retail revenue comes from 8% of returning or repeat purchasers. 

Be sure to have a look at this post that discusses successful loyalty program examples including tiered, value-based, mobile app and many others followed by Shopify’s top 10 picks for the most innovative customer loyalty programs. Motivation is sure to strike. 

Incentivize employees to improve their skills

If you’re not a solopreneur, it’s unlikely that all your customers will interact with you directly. This makes it critical that you create incentives for support staff to provide outstanding service to customers. A study conducted by Objective Management Group found that up to 75% of sales reps are underperforming. 

Don’t take the chance that your reps are in this percentage. Ensure that they have every incentive to perform exceptionally well. Are they pleasant and helpful? How knowledgeable about your products and services are they? Is it possible to greet your most loyal customers by name? These seemingly insignificant gestures can go a long way in retaining your valued customers. 

So spare no expense in helping your employees to improve their skills.  Find out who your best workers are and provide instant rewards and incentives for improvement. Internal surveys, quizzes, trivia, training exercises, and other learning tools can help improve their confidence and skill at selling your brand and products, and loyalty rewards will motivate them to continue developing their abilities.

To reiterate…

You need to see your customers as lifelong friends. There are many strategies seeking to retain their business and loyalties, but no shortcuts. You can’t fake a lasting relationship, but you can work hard to keep innovating and encouraging your customers to want to stick around. 

Whether it’s through gamifying, saying a genuine thank you, empowering employees or what have you, the efforts add up and people will grow to appreciate it. 

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