Getting new customers through the door is both expensive and exhausting in every industry. However, it’s especially difficult if your offer public cloud solutions - SaaS, PaaS, IaaS; although all of those industries are growing at an amazing pace, you’re still dealing with a limited (but expanding) pool of potential clients.
And even if that weren’t the case, wouldn’t you much rather have all your customers always coming back for more? You wouldn’t be much of a businessperson if you didn’t.
Retaining just a fraction of your current customers can result in a substantial increase in profits - a Bain & Company study published in the Harvard Business Review notes that a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by as much as 95%!
It’s probably hard to wrap your mind around that specific figure, but consider what you’re getting by encouraging just one customer to stick with you:
- A customer that’s more likely to shop with you again - right now, you have their trust, but it’s up to you to keep it.
- Lower customer acquisition cost - every lead costs money, but not every lead turns into a customer. Spending a percentage of that acquisition money on retention results in higher financial returns.
- A repeat customer is on its way to becoming a brand advocate - you’re securing a privileged spot for your brand in the minds of your customers. When asked, they will be more likely to recommend your services.
In this post, I’ll be discussing customer retention, but not only that. I’ll show you how simple retention techniques result in happy customers who come back, but also bring their friends with them.
Aside from that, we’ve also made a dedicated resource page on Customer Advocacy
Customer retention and advocacy are not interchangeable terms, but they do enjoy a symbiotic relationship that can impact your bottom line in more ways than one. Although I’ll be focusing mostly on the SaaS ecosystem, these ideas can be applied to every business with just a few tweaks, so don’t miss out on them if you, let’s say, run an e-commerce store or similar.
6 Easy-to-Do Things That Will Increase Your Customer Retention Rates
When I say easy, I mean easy. Reading through this, you will probably realize that you’re already doing most of these things. Or at least, you already have similar procedures. What’s missing is that extra something that signals to your customers that it’s all about them, not you. So let’s get started.
Setting up automated emails to fire occasionally is the easiest thing in the world for a business to do. Most businesses believe that’s enough and that, somehow, they are engaging with their customers in doing so. They aren’t, though, not really. Email is great, but the focus shifted a long time ago. These days, your customers are talking about you (and venting about you, too) on their social media platforms.
Communicate With Your Customers On Their Own Terms
Consider building out as many social media platforms as you can manage because that increases the number of touch points you have with your customers. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, take a long, hard look at Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora, and others, and see if it makes any sense that you should be there. More often than not, you will find a community on those ignored platforms - and they will feel ignored, too.
Respecting how and where your customers communicate gives you an opportunity to join their conversations. It allows you to provide feedback, deal with complaints, and publish updates instantaneously to a large group of people that will spread the word around.
If you have a fair number of users, it’s tempting to deal with every request as quickly as possible and then move on. When it comes to problem resolution, your CS reps might even feel pressurized to clear their dockets as soon as possible.
However, keep this in mind: no one ever said ‘I got a satisfactory service from the XYZ company’. You either impress and are remembered, or skate by and are forgotten. It’s as simple as that and it’s true for every part of the customer journey - from consideration all the way through to advocacy. You have to nail it every single time.
It’s the little things that make a difference:
a) Make sure that your new customers have easy access to training videos for your SaaS solution. Things that seem obvious to you are definitely not obvious to them, and you want their transition to be as smooth as possible.
b) When solving a problem - communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. Even if you don’t have anything very meaningful to say, stay in touch with your customer and give them regular updates.
c) Upsells are not a dirty word, but only when executed in the right way. If you sell something new to your customer, touch base with them to see if they are using that new product. If not, find out where the problem is and coach them - for free!
Remember one thing - never over-promise in your sales pitches. State your value proposition clearly, but hold on to some of the big guns so you can impress on a regular basis. Over-promise and you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Personalize Whenever Possible
Do you like it when someone addresses you with ‘Hey, you, whatever your name is!’. If someone approached you like that on the street, would it be safe to assume that they are not your friend? The point here is that each person might be different, but ‘people’ are the same - they get angry if you forget their name and feel unappreciated if they are lumped in with everyone else.
Generic messages seem to be a pet peeve for most people. It’s understandable because we all feel that our problems are rather unique - for one thing, they’re ours, right, so they have to be huge?
The way to make every one of your customers feel appreciated is attempting to make their experiences different and unique. Of course, you won’t be able to do that every time, but here are a few ideas:
a) Sending out personalized emails segmented by age, gender, purchasing history, industry, specific problems and other things can boost your email open rates and read rates. It will also ensure that you’re not annoying customers by sending out emails they have no use for.
b) Offering a number of choices for your platform. For example, if you require a sign-in and accept Facebook or Twitter, why not include other platforms as well, such as Pinterest and LinkedIn. You’re giving customers a choice, which they will appreciate.
c) Personalized web pages and push notifications can also signal to customers that you’re involved in what they are doing. If they’ve abandoned a recent session, prompt them with a push notification. Also, if they were using a paid feature above their pay-grade recently, why not serve them a page explaining all the benefits of a more inclusive plan?
- Reward Loyalty
Loyalty programs just work, plain and simple. I mean, who doesn’t like to get rewarded every now and again - it’s like an extra birthday, right? Afford your customers that extra incentive to keep coming back instead of serving up hard asks and offering nothing in return.
Granted, this would go a lot easier if you were an e-commerce store, but even as a SaaS business, you can make it work. Tie your program to specific advocacy actions (for customers participating on your advocacy platform) - examples that come to mind are social media interactions, shares, votes, participating in surveys, and so on. Also, rewarding referrals is a nice way to encourage customers to send more business your way.
And, it’s not just a way of saying thank you, either. Close to 75% of companies see a healthy return on investment from their loyalty programs. Additionally, the same percentage of customers (75%) are more likely to recommend a company with a good loyalty program. Considering that, it’s more likely that you’ll lose out if you don’t implement a something, then if you do.
- Gamify the Shopping Experience and Customer Actions
Gamification is gaining a lot of ground in marketing these days. What it essentially does is turning customer actions into a game by removing them from the conventional shopping experience. There are tons of way to gamify everything, from the quintessential act of shopping to advocacy actions.
For example, Starbucks is making headlines with their app ordering - with a few taps on your phone, you can now order your coffee and collect it at the predetermined time without waiting in the line. Also, Domino’s Pizza has an app that helps indecisive people choose their toppings - simply shake the app and it will make a delicious pizza for you. This makes shopping fun and not a grind that it, in most cases, is.
I know it’s pretty difficult to gamify the act of shopping if you’re a SaaS business. However, you can still incorporate gamification into your interactions with customers, if you choose to think out of the box. Get your customers to participate in your advocacy program and gamify that experience. Award badges for different actions, acknowledge your top contributors by spotlighting them, run point-based contests - it’s surprising what people find interesting and a bit of competition within your community can keep it healthy, interesting and stable, as well as help it grow. The point with all of this is to have different points of contact with your customers and to engage with them on an everyday basis - this can lead to a 66% drop in customer attrition rates.
- Listen to Customers, Admit Mistakes & Solve Problems Fast
With the advent of social media, everything a company does is under constant scrutiny. Don’t think this doesn’t apply to you as well. The worst thing that you can do is hide negative comments on your social media pages. The second-worst thing is to ignore them. When faced with customer negativity in your social feed, follow these simple steps:
a) Listen carefully and ask questions - train all your CS reps and social media people to listen (or, read) carefully to the experience the customer is describing. Have them ask pointed questions either there or through PMs to find out exactly what went wrong.
b) Apologize and take ownership of the problem - even if it’s not something that you could have influenced, never argue with a customer in a social media setting. It justs reflects badly on you and reinforces the belief that companies would rather eat dirt than admit a mistake.
c) Proceed to solve the problem if possible - ask the customer for their contact details and let them know that a dedicated CS rep will contact them within the next 24 hours (preferably 2 hours if we’re talking about working hours in the middle the week). Always follow through on that.
d) Learn from the experience - make sure that the root problem is resolved and that it won’t affect other users, and set up procedures to follow if something similar happens again.
There are several upsides to this type of online communication: transparency, accountability, and the human touch. Don’t focus on that one dissatisfied customer - handle the problem right, and everyone else will see that you have nothing to hide - your company is not infallible, so it’s human; you acknowledge your mistakes, so you’re trustworthy; you rectify those mistakes quickly, so you’re dependable. How you handle a bad comment or a negative review can become a ringing endorsement for your company - don’t mess it up.
Are You Ready To Step Up Your Game?
Every one of these tactics can be implemented with a minimal spend on your part, but all can have an enormous impact on your customer retention rates. The best part is, as you retain customers, you’re slowly turning them into brand advocates. Only true advocates are in it for the long haul, so the mission of your SaaS solution team (read: it’s everyone’s business) is to not only provide great value but to provide great and consistent service, as well. Once you achieve that level and you’re able to flip those one-offs, you will have a strong customer base that multiplies itself through advocacy and referrals.
Do you have any experience with anything on this list? If you do, make sure to comment below, and let me know how it worked out for you, especially if there’s a tactic here you prefer over all others.