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By AnnaLea Crowe

When customers choose to do business with you, it’s because they’re impressed with the product or service that you offer. But what keeps them coming back for more — or pushes them away — is the customer experience they end up having with you. Eighty-two percent of consumers in the U.S. stated that they stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer experience. Even if you’re selling a top-of-the-line product or service, your company will not succeed if you don’t show that you appreciate the people who give you their business. Here are some tried-and-true tips to keep your customer retention high.

1. Be a superhero. Wow your customers with one of these customer-care tips:
• Greet customers by name. This is a nice personal touch to show that you recognize a customer as a person, and that they’re not just another sale.
• Celebrate birthdays. Try offering a special discount a customer’s special day rolls around to show that you care.
• Select an employee or a customer of the month. This gesture shows that you recognize hard work and great service, and you appreciate it when it’s done right.
• Businesses that thrive on tourism should make an effort to appreciate and understand the cultures and backgrounds of their customers. Try customizing your tours or packages to specify what different customers may want or expect.

2. Get social. You’re going to hear this tip over and over again, so get used to it. Find out where your customers are hanging out on social media and start listening to them. Engaging with them on Facebook or Twitter is one of the best ways to get feedback. Consider one of these tips:
• Talk to your customers on social media — and try not to sound impersonal. Taco Bell is an example of a company that’s doing this right. Named one of Time magazine’s 13 Sassiest Brands on Twitter, Taco Bell is known for tweeting witty one-liners and relevant pop culture references. When it’s obvious that a business is engaging on social media and is not a robot, customers tend to feel more connected to the brand as a whole.
• Give your customers sneak previews about upcoming sales and promotions. Loyal customers like to feel like they’re insiders who are the first to know about events before others do, so indulge them. Make them feel like they’re VIPs and they will more likely stay with you long term.
• Do not ignore customer comments on social media. Making it a practice to always respond to customers will help you build strong, long-lasting relationships. In return, you’ll likely see more word-of-mouth recommendations, and who doesn’t want that?

3. Fix any issues that come up. Even if your product or service is top notch, there is always room for improvement. Take the time to investigate your processes and look for ways to improve your customer service. Ignoring issues will not earn you a good reputation among your customers, and angry customers can do serious damage if they spread the word about a negative experience. Also, if you acknowledge problems immediately rather than sweep them under the rug, you will earn more respect.

4. Mind your manners. According to a Gallup study, customers were nine times more likely to be engaged when a brand service was “courteous, willing and helpful” versus “speedy.” Ways to be courteous include:
• Always say “thank you.” Burberry sends personal email follow-ups to existing customers to thank them and to see if they’re enjoying their purchases. A simple follow-up phone call or email reminds your customers that you remember them and care about their level of satisfaction.
• Apologize when necessary. Ninety-two percent of consumers say they would go back to a company after a negative experience if they received an apology. Doing this shows that you put a lot of value in the expression “the customer is always right” and you’ll do whatever it takes to keep customers happy.

5. Be consistent and reliable. Go the extra mile. FedEx promises to deliver their customers’ mail overnight, no matter what the conditions are. Building this kind of rapport and trust with your customers is the foundation for building long-lasting relationships.

6. Earn trust by being transparent. If you’re in an industry like finance or insurance, this rule is even more important. Show your customers that you’re an open book and encourage questions. Populate your website with information, have brochures available, and be willing to take the time to ensure customer confidence. You won’t earn trust by being evasive, but you’ll certainly earn it if you explain what you’re doing and why.

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