We’re all familiar with the statistic about how keeping existing customers is of greater value than attracting new ones. But for whatever reason, cultivating and nurturing a post-sale relationship becomes a missed opportunity rather than a standard practice. Here we discuss three easy ways to keep your existing customers happy and coming back for more.
As consumers, we’ve all been in a position where we feel underappreciated. Some brands will appear dedicated, invested and genuinely concerned with our well-being…at first. Then after a purchase is made, the love affair quickly fades and we become just another statistic included in quarterly revenue reports.
Of course it’s important that brands allocate resources to attracting new customers, but it’s also important to strategize and invest in the post-sale experience. Here we discuss a few simple, straightforward ways your brand can connect with customers AFTER the sale to improve their likelihood of brand loyalty.
1. Follow-up with genuine, non-salesy messaging
Typically, when making a purchase online, there is usually a “thank you” message included along with the purchase confirmation or receipt. If a purchase is made in-person, the staff member will likely thank the customer for their visit. These are standard practices that every brand should have included in their customer experience strategy. However this should be the start of the “post-sale phase” of the customer’s life cycle, not the end.
Imagine giving a gift to a friend or family member; be it a birthday or maybe a wedding gift. Usually the recipient will show their appreciation and gratitude in that moment with a smile or a hug. It’s a feel-good moment for everyone involved, and after that fleeting moment – life moves on.
Now imagine a week later you receive a thank you card in the mail, hand written, specifically referencing the gift you gave and how it will become a special part of that person’s life. The feel-good moment is revisited, extended, and this memory will most certainly arise the next time you go to purchase a gift for this person.
In fact, your overall impression of this person is most likely lifted because of the effort they put forth to recognize the effort you put forth. There is now a relationship of reciprocity where you are willing to do more for this person in the future because you know your efforts are noticed and appreciated.
This same scenario can exist between a brand and customer when a purchase is made. The customer has given the brand a gift of their business, and now the brand has an opportunity to convert a one-time purchase into a feel-good memory the customer will keep with them long into the future.
2. Provide customer feedback opportunities, and listen closely to what is being said
Customers are eager to voice their opinions, which will always include both positive and negative comments. While it’s not always easy to hear and process criticism from customers, these voices are sharing vital information, exposing blind-spots, and offering a blueprint for how a brand can improve its products or services.
Obviously, sales and revenue are important metrics when measuring success. However these shouldn’t be the only metrics discussed, especially when focusing on long-term goals and objectives. If profits are at an all-time high yet customers are quietly dissatisfied with certain aspects of their experiences, profits may eventually start to see a decline; and by then it’s too late to effectively identify and address customer pain points.
By establishing ongoing, open lines of communication with customers, red flags and warning signs will be noticed as issues arise rather than after the impact is being felt.
Keeping an eye on social media activity or reviewing a website contact-us form are good ways to start, however these are considered “passive” feedback opportunities. Meaning, a customer must initiate the communication and the message is usually unstructured or vague. Instead, it’s a good idea for brands to take a proactive approach in collecting feedback in a structured format to produce actionable insights rather than merely observations.
Here are a few examples of key feedback opportunities any brand can (and should) implement:
Getting to Know You: Learn more about the customer’s day-to-day life.
Customer Experience: Map out the customer’s path-to-purchase to identify strengths and areas in need of attention.
Lost Customer: Understand why customers stop coming back or leave for competitor brands so that something can be done about it.
Brand Perception/Identity: Measure the effectiveness of existing marketing efforts to ensure they are cultivating the intended brand image.
3. Develop a strategy of ongoing customer engagement and provide value beyond any one transaction
Overall, the intent of ongoing customer engagement is to continually add value to the customer’s purchase decision. Whether it was last week or two years ago, if a brand shows a willingness to provide added value to its customers without asking for immediate return then a true relationship will take shape.
Rather than having one-off or sporadic efforts to engage customers, make this part of an overall sales strategy and implement processes intended to achieve specific goals.
If a customer experience strategy ends after a purchase is made, then there isn’t really a sales cycle; it’s more of a linear sales track with a definitive end point. This approach relies on presumption and hope that a customer will return for more business, which isn’t a high-confidence approach.
For brands that put forth the proactive effort to collect customer feedback, one great engagement approach is to reach out and communicate specific ways that feedback is being used to improve products or services. Publicly share plans or actions taken in a manner that highlights the value of customer feedback, and also puts a spotlight on how highly customers are valued in general.
Another effective approach to engagement is creating a customer “panel” which is a network of customers who opt-in to participate as an industry expert or brand advocate. Having a core group of engaged customers will offer a pipeline for ongoing feedback opportunities, it will establish a direct channel of communication for brand announcements or promotional offers, and if utilized properly it will keep a customer’s attention and maintain brand relevance while moving along the sales cycle.
The consumer market will continue evolving and the level of competition will only intensify as time moves forward. In order to maintain relevance, brands must continually prove their value to customers AND they must also prove that the customers are valued by the brand.
Accomplishing these objectives doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it require an eye-widening investment. It simply requires strategy, effort and consistency. The little things will make the big differences, and keeping customers happy after a purchase is made lifts a brand from the being good to being great.
If you’re looking to strengthen your post-sale engagement strategy, or get started mapping out the customer’s experience beyond purchase, give us a shout!
For over 30 years we’ve been partnering with brands to understand their customers, provide best-in-class experiences, and achieve bottom-line objectives.