We hear it over and over again: We’re now living in “the new normal.”
There’s nothing really normal about what we’re all currently experiencing, but it is our new reality, at least for now. Everyone is impacted. Businesses are left struggling to not only focus on keeping themselves and their team safe, but to also find new ways to retain clients after a dramatically sharp dip in the economy.
Client retention is often something that many businesses work to improve, and during changing times, you may need to adjust your tactics to keep clients on board that you wouldn’t have had to worry about several months ago.
In this post, we’re going to discuss how to improve client retention during changing times using specific best practices, all of which are applicable right now.
How Businesses & Client Retention Have Been Impacted by the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global crisis that’s unlike anything any of us have experienced. Within a matter of weeks, enormous sections of the United States economy were shut down, state by state. Employees were sent to work from home, leaving many companies scrambling to effectively connect with customers, and furlough and unemployment rates skyrocketed to around 16%.
The economy was instantly impacted. As a result, a large number of businesses saw a drop off in client retention from long-time established clients right when they may have needed those clients most.
Consumers all over the world were forced to cut their budgets drastically. B2B businesses were impacted, too, as their clients had to cut costs when their own income dropped. Even the most loyal customers may have been forced to look for more cost-effective options, abandoning long-term relationships with the vendors.
Everything became about necessity, as businesses were justifying every penny spent while their customer base and profit declined.
Why Great Service is Now Key to Customer Retention
While most businesses saw enormous hits with customer retention, some only experienced moderate decreases in clients or profits compared to their competitors. Great customer service is almost always a factor.
Now more than ever, customers need to feel confident that anything they’re purchasing will actually deliver on the promises made. This is true whether it’s SaaS software, a leather sofa, or the installation of a new sink. Consumers might have tighter budgets, so they need to make their funds go further, and it needs to be worth it.
Clients don’t want to worry that they’ll spend $100, have an issue, and not be able to have it resolved.
And if customers call you to place an order or ask a question about a product or service and they’re waiting on hold for an hour or more (which is unfortunately becoming standard for some large companies as they’re overwhelmed with remote requests), you can be confident that they won’t be purchasing. If, however, you’re able to answer within a few rings to address any questions you have, you’ll likely retain the customer and earn the sale.
How to Offer Exceptional Customer Service to Boost Client Retention
When times are changing, outstanding customer support will be the most powerful weapon in your arsenal to keep your client retention rates steady (or even steadily growing). Let’s look at a few key ways that you can easily improve your customer service in ways that will help your retention rates.
Create Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs incentivize users to keep their existing relationship with your brand and to purchase in the future. You might offer exclusive discounts to long-time customers, for example, or have programs set up where they can earn rewards, discounts, or exclusive perks for purchases.
Referral programs are often a key part of loyalty programs, and they incentivize your existing customers to refer their peers to become customers, too. Both the new customer and the existing customer will receive a discount or perk when they sign up, which can help you actively increase your client base.
Focus on Relationship Building
Relationship building is essential because people will prioritize businesses that they have a strong relationship with during changing times. This is partially because they care about the people they’re working closely with, but there’s also an element of trust that comes into play here, too.
If someone has been working with their accountant directly for ten years, they’ll likely do so again if at all possible because they trust them, even if H&R block is more in line with their current budget.
Make sure that you’re putting time into building relationships with your customers, and reach out proactively to ask if there’s anything they need right now.
Request & Act on Customer Feedback
Sometimes we may have blindspots when it comes to our own customer service that can hurt the client experience (and customer retention rates) without us ever realizing it. You may think you’re responding in a timely manner, for example, but your customers may disagree.
Send out anonymous requests for feedback, asking your customers to rate their experience with your business. Encourage them to leave specific suggestions for what they’d like to see improved.
Here’s the crucial part: Do everything you can to act on those requests. If people are frustrated by long-wait times, look into hiring an answering service like PATLive so that all of your calls are answered instantly. And if people feel that your return policy is unfair, take another look at what your competition is doing and how much it would cost to reassess.
When customers know that your brand cares, they’ll be more invested long-term.
Increase Brand Responsiveness
During changing times, it’s normal for everyone to be a little on edge, because our “normal” isn’t so normal anymore. It’s essential to make sure that your customer support team is absolutely at the top of their game for this, ready to answer incoming calls and messages quickly and thoroughly.
If customers get even a whiff of instability or see an impact of the changing times on your business, they can lose confidence in your brand exceptionally quickly. You don’t want customers to worry that you’re going under or that you’re unable to help them.
Make sure that you’re checking every inbox regularly, including your social media direct messages. Do what you can to ensure that all phone calls are answered quickly; hiring an answering service can help with this.
Even in the most peaceful and boring of times, many businesses want to improve client retention rates. During changing times like the one we’re currently experiencing, it becomes even more crucial, especially as many businesses are struggling just to maintain their current client base.
Take the time to invest in high-quality customer support across multiple channels. This is what you need to keep client retention steady during unstable periods, and to keep your business thriving.
Looking for additional ways to offer great service to improve client retention during COVID-19 and beyond? Check out how PATLive can help you deliver customer service excellence with every incoming call here.