Maintaining Customer Loyalty: why you need to be attentive to stay retentive!

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At a basic level in business you need to do two things to survive: attract new customers and retain the ones you already have. When competition is fierce and markets are shrinking the latter becomes doubly important and because it is estimated that it costs 4 times more to attract a new customer than retain one it makes economic sense as well to build customer loyalty and keep them happy.

However, judging by the examples of poor service I have witnessed recently, some companies have so many customers and apparently limitless pools of new prospects to draw upon that they don’t need to hang on to the ones they have by wasting their time on meeting an acceptable standard of customer care. What a lucky position to be in eh?

How To Lose Your Customers

The first such example is a national chain of health clubs (closely linked to a Dragon!). A friend of mine is a member of the club and has been unable to use the facilities due to undergoing treatment for cancer. She wrote to the manager, with a sick note, to explain and see whether it was possible to receive a refund for the last 3 months when she had been too ill to attend and to put her membership on hold until she was well enough to come back. The answer came back – NO. Upset by their lack of compassion she responded by saying it made her inclined to cancel her membership. Did this make the powers that be question their decision on an ethical level? Did the risk of losing a member make them reconsider on a business level? No. Their response was to charge her £75 for cancelling her membership early. And for that reason, she was OUT!  It seems this so-called ‘health’ club is neither concerned about the health of its members or the health of its long term business. Shocking. (As a former member, I receive flyers and calls from this same club on a regular basis with offers to re-join so clearly they don’t have so many members that they don’t need any more).

Another example is a courier company who were tasked with the job of delivering something to me. This did not seem like too much to ask from a delivery company but it seems my expectations were too high. This formerly 3 lettered courier that now goes by a name akin to an Austrian singing technique failed to deliver my parcel. While this was disappointing these things happen; I am not at home 24 hours a day and so I can accept this. However, trying to track the parcel and get it re-delivered has proved to be difficult, time consuming and extremely frustrating because they have made it as hard as they can for customers to do this. Firstly they never left a card to say they’d tried to deliver, I only know through tracking it online. Secondly they don’t publish a number to call on their online tracking site, I had to ring several to find the right one and thirdly they don’t feature enough  tracking details online to be able to use their automated system. After calling them all week and being promised that it was on the van and due for delivery every day I was eventually informed that it had been returned to the sender. In America. Not much use when it was intended to be given as a birthday present the following day. The only advice they could give me at that point was to ask the sender to return it and gave me an e-mail address that I could forward a complaint to. The e-mail bounced back because it was an invalid address.

There are two issues here. Number one is ‘get it right’. Number two is if you can’t get it right, and sometimes things do happen, then deal with the problem efficiently and demonstrate that you actually value your customers. Both of these so-called leading companies failed to do this and therefore they don’t deserve to retain their customers’ loyalty.

How To Keep Your Customers

A great example of good service is from Asda (credit where it’s due). I regularly order my groceries online (hey, I am a busy working mum!) and one time I received multiples of several items that I had ordered, far more than I thought I had ordered (eg 6 multi packs of the same crisps!). It could have been a website glitch or it could have been my error but I told them about it and they refunded the cost of all the extra items without asking me to return them. They evidently recognised the long term value of my business and extended a gesture of goodwill without hesitation. Now that is what I call good service and I still continue to use them every week (and we all know the cost of a weekly shop for a family of four – no small change!).

Creating Great Customer Experience

Customers are far more likely to complain about bad service than praise a provider for good service so the impact could spread wider than those few you lose. The moral of this story is don’t be complacent, give your customers a reason to keep using you and consider the long term benefit of keeping those customers happy. In other words, make customer loyalty a key part of your marketing strategy – a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush!

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