How to keep your customers happy

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When you hear the words “customer experience,” what comes to mind? Is it a friendly customer service rep? Is it an easy-to-navigate website? What about free shipping or returns?

The most dominant force for a business used to be providing the customer exactly what they needed. It was all about finding a pain point and creating the right solution. That was enough to grow a business. People would forgive a subpar experience as long as the end result was what they wanted. Because no one else was selling that product or service, knowing how to keep your customers happy was less important.

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The ways you keep your customers happy have changed in the last 20 years: As technology kept improving, markets grew increasingly saturated. There were tons of businesses doing the same thing. Online retail shopping blew up. Online grocers were putting a strain on brick-and-mortar markets. Hundreds of companies even started delivering meal kits right to your doorstep.

It was no longer enough to have the right solution, or even the right solution with the right interface. The businesses that succeeded were the ones that understood how to keep customers satisfied in this new environment.

So how did certain companies stand out? Why did some businesses rise to the top while others folded and crumbled? Two words: customer experience.

Creating an outstanding customer experience

Think about the companies you love doing business with. What are they? And what do you enjoy about them?

The top companies in the game aren’t just offering solutions to your pain points, they’re pulling out all the stops. They’re giving their customers the white glove experience from start to finish, making them feel special and keeping them coming back for more: Friendly customer service reps, free shipping and returns, light-speed service and perks that you have never even thought about.

Making customers feel special isn’t just about giving them what they need – it’s about giving them what they want. It’s about treating customers like they are the top priority and making them feel heard. Most of all it’s about discovering your X factor and leveraging it to keep customers happy.

Benefits of keeping customers happy

The benefits of happy customers are straightforward: loyalty, revenue and lifetime value. Happy customers won’t just keep coming back – they’ll recommend you to their friends. They’ll write rave reviews online and boost your ratings. They’ll bring you leads and get their family to sign up for a trial.

There’s proof that learning how to keep your customers happy works. Companies that are putting a premium on convenience and consistency are winning. Look at Venmo, for example. When it started, Venmo launched in the same market as PayPal, doing the exact same thing, but captured a substantial part of PayPal’s market by making mobile transactions easier for the customer. Venmo pulled ahead of PayPal and ultimately it paid off – PayPal later purchased Venmo, and combined they dominate the online payment market.

That’s why you need to keep your customers happy.

How to know if the customer is satisfied

Think you’re doing everything right to keep your customers happy? How can you know for sure? There are a few tell-tale signs of happy customers.

  • Low churn rate. Your churn rate indicates how loyal your customers are. Do they keep coming back or do they ditch you for a competitor as soon as they see a lower price or free shipping? A good churn rate depends on your industry and your target audience, but you always want it to be as low as possible.
  • Active social media following. Social media often gets a bad rap. It’s labeled as “vanity metrics” and is notoriously hard to connect to revenue. But there is one area where it’s useful: how to know if the customer is satisfied. High engagement and positive interactions indicate an audience who wants to connect with you and your product – and that indicates happy customers.
  • Referrals. Referrals are the lifeblood of many businesses, especially professional services and B2B industry. They can bring you large accounts, upsells and cross-sells. And they can bring you individual customers that add up to the thousands. Taken together, loyal customers who recommend your business or product are one of the easiest ways to grow your business.
  • Positive reviews. In the digital age, people trust reviews almost as much as they trust referrals from people they know. Negative reviews can destroy a business, while positive reviews can take it to the next level. Always offer unhappy customers compensation for their bad experience. Don’t forget happy customers, either. Rewards programs and thank-you gifts can go a long way.

If you don’t see these four signs in your business, you may need to work on how to keep your customers happy. Remember the overarching principle: Make them feel special.

How to keep your customers happy

1. Listen to them

If you aren’t asking your customers for continual feedback, you’re not capitalizing on all the ways you can keep them happy. Ask them questions either personally, through your customer service reps or via digital communication. Deeply listen to the answers. If you do this, you’ll often hear exactly how to keep customers satisfied from those who know best.

Find the authentic voice of your client. Go out and ask your customers how they felt – use a survey, send direct emails, ask for feedback. What were their frustrations? What were their dislikes? Each of these answers is an opportunity for you to innovate. If your fear of the answers causes you to tune out – or never ask to begin with – then you will never grow. Focus on what makes you uncomfortable.

2. Know your industry better than anyone

Keeping customers happy requires you to be the authority in your industry. For your business to stand out in a crowded world, you need to be able to answer questions thoroughly and provide the best solutions to those you serve.

3. Reward loyal customers

Every good entrepreneur knows that keeping customers happy is more important than constantly gaining new ones. Reward loyalty with discounts, free products, extra services or other bonuses that show you appreciate them and that will keep them singing your praises.

4. Create ongoing, engaging content

You need to keep talking to your customers – and you can’t always do that in person. An engaging content strategy through blogging, emails and social media will help you remain relevant and keep your customers informed.

5. Be transparent

Do you want to know how to keep customers satisfied? Be honest with them. Tell them how changes in the economy are affecting your business, share your struggles and let them celebrate with you as you grow. This makes them feel like part of the team and increases loyalty.

6. Respond promptly to feedback

No matter how good your products or services are, there will inevitably be negative feedback from your customers. Keeping customers happy is not about never having complaints – it’s about responding to them promptly when they pop up. Once your team is aware of a problem, contact the customer directly to find out what went wrong and do your best to make it right. This keeps your clients happy and allows you to turn potential problems into opportunities.

7. Commit to innovation

Too many companies are complacent and do not put a lot of thought into keeping customers happy. They think, well, we provide a solution to the customer, so that is good enough. But sooner or later someone else is going to come in and capitalize on the areas where you fall short. They will create the superior customer experience that you don’t have. The result? They capture your market share, and, eventually, that will put you out of business.

To be the disruptor instead of the disrupted, you need to constantly innovate. So where do you start as a business owner? Take a comprehensive review or audit of your current customer experience. Ask yourself: Is my software easy to use? Is my product or service easy to order? What makes it hard for my customer? How can I not only make it easier, but how can I go above and beyond? Remember, it’s not about meeting your client’s expectations – it’s exceeding them.

8. Anticipate their needs

How to keep your customers happy is about anticipation and fulfilling needs before the customer even knows they have that need. Rent the Runway – a designer dress and accessory rentals business – sends back-up sizes just in case the items you ordered do not fit. Zappos, an online shoe retailer, takes all returns for free, no questions asked. And Amazon? While they may not have the ideal shopping experience – is it even possible to sort through the thousands of options? – they offer an unprecedented deal with shipping. The customer knows that they will be covered if the package does not show up or if they need to place a return.

9. Turn your weaknesses into opportunities

If you had to start all over and build a company that’s in your market, with the same types of customers, what would it look like? How would you build it to be better than your own? The answer will give you the strategy you need to stay ahead of your competition.

Remember, they too are looking at your weaknesses – they want to outflank you and capture your market. But if you can use these weaknesses as opportunities to innovate and create an easier, safer and more enjoyable customer experience. Then you will not only be able to retain your current customer base, but may be able to outflank your competition and capture a greater market share, too.

10. Provide excellent customer service

Customer experience isn’t just about your website or your ordering process. To keep your customers happy, you also need easy, organized and friendly customer service. People don’t want to call customer service to get information or to complete tasks on the website. On the contrary, people see automation as a sign of sophistication, and that reflects well on your brand.

People feel like they are being hassled if they have to pick up the phone and call. But if they do have to call a representative, then it must be the most enjoyable experience possible. No waiting times. Friendly service. Easy fixes. That’s how to keep customers satisfied.

Remember, weaknesses can be your biggest opportunities for growth, innovation and connection with the customer. You want to create a business that has thoroughly considered each and every one of their customers’ needs. This is what creates raving fan customers, and, in turn, breeds brand loyalty, which equates to higher lifetime value and stronger revenues for your business in the long run.

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