Managers too often get totally immersed in the mountains of data that are regularly churned out in every department and lose touch with what really counts: keeping your customers happy. Big data can provide solid clues on market segments and demographics, but there is no substitute for making direct contact with the customer. It is also useful to define who the really loyal customers are, and what it takes to maintain their allegiance. Statistics show that, on the average, the super customers represent 50% of total sales. This very significant contribution usually comes from only 10% of the customer base. So keeping these super loyal fans satisfied and motivated should be a high priority for the sales and marketing team. Engaging this segment and providing an interactive relationship with them has led to breakthrough feedback in product improvement and creation of new products and services. There are six key steps that successful companies take to secure the loyalty of this powerful group:
Photo by: Jack Moreh
Recognize their existence – Most financial software will provide a breakdown of sales by customers. Select the top 10-20% and assign a special status to them. Ensure that everyone in your organization is familiar with the top accounts, and not just the top management team. Follow the historical sales records and analyze their performance on a quarterly basis. Quickly flag any deviation from historical sales trends, and take immediate remedial action. If you are a retailer dealing directly with consumers, obtain as much information as you can from their purchasing records. Ask for their names, addresses and e-mail addresses when they make a purchase. Record this information in your sale records, or CRM software. This is usually an automated process for e-commerce businesses. But keeping records is just the first step in identifying the super customers. Analyze your sales record on a regular basis with a particular focus on this valuable group.
Maintain their interest – Use the company’s website as a forum for interactive communication with your loyal clients. Make these individuals feel that their opinion counts by creating chat lines or contact pages that facilitate feedback. Thank them for their input and let them know that their issues and problems will be looked into. Set up an incentive system that rewards useful information, which can be readily implemented within the company. List the individuals who have received rewards for useful feedback on you website to motivate others to take action.
Assign a super customer service person – Make the super consumer a priority in the customer service department by assigning overall responsibility to a senior customer service representative. Provide this person with the latest sales statistics from the financial or CRM data. Provide them with the authority to make decisions on how best to respond to service deficiencies and to make amends with dissatisfied top level customers. Have them report any customer issues to the Sales or Marketing Manager so that action can be coordinated throughout the organization.
Reward them – One of the best examples of an effective customer reward system is the loyalty programs set up by most airline companies. Loyalty cards attached to monetary rewards have a proven track record of effectiveness in maintaining the loyalty of customers. If you don’t do it then your competitors will take advantage to poach some of your key clients. It may not be economically feasible for a small company to set up an independent loyalty platform, but they can offer an amalgamated program such as Air Miles and other cooperative loyalty schemes. It is also useful to remember that loyalty programs have become a source of additional revenue streams for many companies as they capitalize on the discounts offered to them by rewards suppliers.
Treat them as VIPs – Offering VIP cards with special privileges like discounts on product or services is something that can be set up by a company of any size. Other cards can be issued that allow customers to maintain a record of each sale and offer a discount or free purchase when a certain number of sales is reached. This is one of the simplest ways to reward loyalty for a small business that requires no sophisticated data accumulation.
Keep them happy – Keeping customers happy should be an ongoing effort that is supported at the highest levels of management. Many companies who start loyalty programs end up neglecting them after the initial push. Customers need new stimulus and incentives to remain on board. Never take their loyalty for granted. Review the established customer programs on a regular basis and find a way to refresh them by offering a new attractive twist. Making the super customers feel that they are an important cog in the performance of the company is an important ego booster that pays dividends.