When you own a small business, it can be challenging to differentiate your business from your competitors. For example, in many cities and towns, there may be a dozen Chinese restaurants, a dozen bakeries, or a dozen photocopy stores to choose from.
How do you convince your customers to choose your place of business, every single time?
You do this by going above and beyond. You must offer an everyday customer service experience that is so much better than that of your peers that your customers won’t think twice about where they will spend their hard-earned money again and again.
Here are five tips that you can use to retain your business’s customers:
1. Give your customers freebies.
In Dr. Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking work, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he writes about the reciprocity principle. In short, Cialdini’s theory, which he has substantiated again and again through his research, is that if you offer something to your customers for free, they will likely feel indebted to you, and thus spend more time and money at your business.
For example, if you own a food truck that sells falafel, cut up your product into bite -sized pieces, and stick a toothpick in each piece. Have them ready for potential customers to try. Then, they will be more likely to eat at your truck instead of at your competitors’.
Melissa McCoy, the founder and CEO of ConnectMed, a service that matches doctors with patients for e-consultations says,”We give customers a free health dashboard where they can enter and visualize personal information like their weight, BMI, sleep, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, with easy integration with the most common wearable devices.”
This helps McCoy ensure that ConnectMed is top-of-mind at all times and promotes loyalty. In addition, she offers “a simple loyalty program where the 10th physician consult is free.”
2. Differentiate your service by thinking like your customers.
There is a barber down the street from where I live named Jimmy who is very talented with a pair of scissors. I feel like a million bucks after Jimmy cuts my hair. However, there is a major problem with Jimmy’s level of service: His shop is only open from 10am to 5pm on Monday through Friday.
I once walked into Jimmy’s shop at 4:55pm and there was another guy waiting ahead of me. Jimmy told me to come back another day. He wouldn’t cut my hair.
Now, I’m not sure if profit is Jimmy’s motivation, but one way to retain customers is to differentiate your service. For example, if I were Jimmy, I would open my shop from, say, 6am on Mondays, and I would stay open until 9pm on Wednesdays. This would give Jimmy many more opportunities to service people in the community whose working hours are from 10am to 5pm.
If other barbers don’t think this way, then this would give Jimmy a clear advantage by matching his service to his customers’ needs.
3. Train your employees well, as you can’t only rely on yourself.
There is a meme that has been floating around the Internet for a couple of years now that talks about the importance of training your employees:
CFO: What happens if we train them and they leave?
CEO: What happens if we don’t and they stay?
Training your employees to service your customers well should not be undervalued. Yes, your customers may have started coming to your business because of you and you alone, but the reality is that in most businesses, the owner cannot always be present. This means that you must invest in your employees so they can deliver great service.
Yes, training takes time. Yes, training costs money. But training has many rewards that will benefit you financially in both the short- and long-term, because if you don’t train your employees, you risk losing a customer for life, and that can translate to losing that customer’s friends and family.
To protect yourself against network effects, it is very important to treat all of your customers well, and to make sure that your employees do they same.
4. Segment your customers.
Greg Moran, the founder and CEO of Zoomcar, a car-sharing company, says, “Personalisation is absolutely key since this will convince customers that the company is making an attempt to understand the pain point or use case in a much deeper, more intimate fashion.”
For example, in Moran’s business, some customers want to drive expensive sports cars, others require SUVs for family outings, and still others just need to get from point A to point B and don’t particularly care which type of car they drive, as long as it is reliable.
When Moran markets to his customers, he makes sure that he doesn’t dangle? a sports car in front of a 40-something mother with children, or offer a boring compact car to a wealthy banker. When you market, having the right data to understand your customer segments can go a very long way in retaining them.
One way to take control of your customer segmentation is by utilizing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. There are dozens of CRM software options out there to choose from, including Salesforce, Pipedrive, and HubSpot, to name a few of the more popular ones. This software easily helps you bucket your customers so you won’t have to worry about sending the wrong email to the wrong type of customer. For example, if you own a clothing store that caters to both men and women, simply creating two customer segments, men and women, will help you advertise to the right people when specific clothing items are on sale.
5. Never say no–and tell your employees not to say no either.
Earlier this year, I heard a talk by Vernon Hill, Chairman and founder of England’s Metro Bank. Hill was thought by many to be the best innovator in the American banking world, as he founded Commerce Bank in Philadelphia that he was able to turn into a $50 billion enterprise. Afterward, Hill moved to the United Kingdom to build Metro Bank, one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country.
Hill’s philosophy at his bank is that “yes” should be the default answer given by his staff when they are asked questions by customers. This even extends to his customers dogs, who are treated to doggie treats and bandanas when they visit the bank with their owners.
Subscribing to these philosophies is likely to lead to more lasting relationships with your customers, which will likely increase your customer loyalty. And customer loyalty is what keeps customers coming back for more.