Consumers have a lot of choices these days, especially with the online arena allowing them a global resource for anything they might want. When you operate online you’re not just competing with local or even domestic companies, but with an international slate of rivals, all of whom are clamoring to steal your customers away with lower prices or other tactics. Because of this, customer retention can be a pretty difficult undertaking. However, if you can keep your customers satisfied, they’ll have no need to go looking elsewhere for the goods or services you provide. In short, you can come up with strategies to increase customer loyalty, and the online arena actually makes it easier than ever. Here are a few ideas you might want to try if your goal is to ensure ongoing patronage.
- Engage customers. In the real world, consumers may frequent certain businesses largely because they are in close proximity to work or home. But even so, they probably have at least a few options to choose from. What makes them choose one grocery store, pharmacy, bank, or gas station over another? For one thing, it has to do with the quality of goods and services. But over time, they become familiar. They may build a rapport with employees. And even if the quality of products or services declines, they may continue to patronize a business simply because they like the personal interaction. It can be a bit more difficult online since you won’t necessarily have face-to-face interactions, but you can take steps to humanize your online presence by introducing employees to the public. You can also provide myriad means of interaction through customer service (email, phone, live chat, etc.), an on-site blog, and of course, social media. But you really have to pay attention and interact if you want to capitalize on the opportunities for personal connection that these avenues offer.
- Offer exemplary customer service. It’s all well and good to pick up the phone when people call, so to speak, and to offer service that is polite and helpful. But you really need to go the extra mile to repair any damage that has been done, turn around a bad experience, and ensure customer satisfaction. It’s not enough to say you care about customers; you need to put your money where your mouth is on this score.
- Protect customer data. If you want customers to be loyal, you must also be loyal to them, which means taking steps to protect the sensitive, personal data they entrust to you. Don’t sell it to third parties like marketing companies that will bombard them with solicitations. And take steps to ensure maximum security, building a firewall, installing anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, and even encrypting data to keep malicious attacks at bay.
- Provide preferential treatment. Customer loyalty programs are an excellent way to reward those who offer continued patronage of your brand. And there are a few ways you can implement this type of program. It starts with a system of tracking to show what consumers are purchasing and how much they’re spending (also useful for product management purposes). From there you can offer freebies, discounts, deals, sneak previews, points towards purchases, and all kinds of other extras for customers that are loyal.
- Build and manage your community. Building a solid website, providing an easy-to-navigate site directory theme, adding an on-site blog, and creating social media profiles are all good ways to kick off your online enterprise. But maintaining, updating, monitoring, and participating are all activities you need to excel at if you want to create a community spirit that compels customers to engage with your brand and build a relationship. You may have to urge employee participation to make the experience personal or hire a community manager to ensure that you stay on top of interactions with customers, but building a community can create the network of close-knit connections that serves to encourage customer loyalty.