Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
As a business owner, the first thing you will learn is that you need customers to pay the bills. Without them, a business would cease to exist.
After you gain customers the next thing you will learn is that keeping and retaining customers is a fundamental business practice.
No one wants a customer to purchase once and then disappear. You want customers for life.
To keep customers you will need to learn the secret to customer retention.
What Is Customer Retention?
Provide customers with a great experience and you will keep them.
This retention translates into increased revenue and lower costs for acquiring new customers.
Customer retention is the result of an organization’s ability to create customer loyalty.
This is done by providing the systems, processes, and support to keep a customer happy.
The goal is to transition customers into advocates for the organization – who are not only loyal but also recruit others.
An organization’s focus on customer retention should be part of a comprehensive customer satisfaction strategy.
A customer satisfaction strategy requires having a good understanding of what the customer wants and expects from you.
And then using that understanding of the customer to create systems and processes to not only meet, but to exceed expectations – and ultimately delight the customer.
This is what strategy is all about.
5 Levels of Customer Satisfaction
1. Not Satisfied
It is pretty simple. A customer is not satisfied when their needs are not met.
This dissatisfaction will result in the consumer looking to other organizations to meet their expressed needs.
The risk with an unsatisfied customer is that they will share their dissatisfaction with other potential customers in an attempt to protect people they know from a less than satisfactory experience. No business wants that.
An unsatisfied customer may be the result of bad service or product but it also may be the result of unrealistic expectations.
For instance, wait times can be very frustrating for a customer. No one enjoys sitting in a waiting room. Particularly if they don’t know how long they will be sitting there.
Help to manage the customer’s expectations by informing them of typical wait times and providing distractions during the wait.
For example, offer free food, coffee and have a neutral program playing on a television.
The goal is to consume the customer’s time so they don’t get annoyed with the wait.
Think of the lines at Disney. They do a great job of winding people through a line and distracting them as they go.
2. Slightly Satisfied
A slightly satisfied customer may have some expectations that are being met but others are not. Everything is so, so.
This customer may return but may go somewhere else if offered a more appealing option.
For instance, I went to the same doctor for many years and loved him. However, his office staff was consistently rude and incompetent – resulting in unpleasant interactions.
I decided to find another doctor, not because of him, but because of his employees.
The sad news is I think he never found out why I left. Because he never asked.
A satisfied customer is one who gets what they expect. Nothing more. Nothing less.
There are no wows in the experience and they leave satisfied but not a smiling advocate.
For instance, think about driving through your favorite fast-food restaurant.
You received what you ordered, and it was what you expected. Not better or worse than prior experiences.
You were satisfied but probably won’t call your friends to share the experience.
4. Very Satisfied
A very satisfied customer not only gets their needs met but may experience some unexpected surprises that enhance their experience. The wow factor or surprise element.
This is when customer satisfaction gets fun.
Figure out a way to throw unexpected surprises at the customer to enrich their experience.
As an example, think about that drive-through restaurant experience; now imagine that a cookie was thrown in the bag simply as a bonus.
That simple gesture may take the customer from being simply satisfied to very satisfied.
As well as a moment to share with friends.
5. Extremely Satisfied
An extremely satisfied customer is the ultimate goal.
This level of satisfaction is a customer who has an experience that consistently exceeds all expectations and has wow factors associated with every experience.
These customers are so excited about the service they receive that they become an advocate for the organization and often recruit new customers because they want to share the positive experience.
For instance, we have a favorite restaurant that we go to for special occasions. They do an outstanding job with the wow factor.
The wait staff greets us by name. Remember the occasion we are celebrating, and share unexpected surprises during the entire experience.
These are experiences that I share with anyone who listens simply because I want them to experience the same thing.
So why is customer retention so important?
Data suggests that it is much more expensive to win a new customer than it is to keep current customers.
Keeping loyal customers helps to establish a solid customer base, which impacts the bottom line.
Once a solid customer base is established, it is the foundation to grow the customer population and ultimately gain a larger percentage of the market share.
Losing current customers as new customers are being established slows the market share growth cycle down.
Some organizations use loyalty programs (frequent flier miles, discount coupons, or other perks) as an incentive for returning customers.
Keep in mind that these programs are seen as positive by customers, but they are not enough to keep customers who are not satisfied with the product or service.
Do You Know What Your Customers Want?
Take the time to understand who your customers are, and what the customer wants, and create systems and processes to meet those expectations.
This practice is the foundation for successful organizations.
If you can’t keep your customers happy, there is always someone down the street who will!
So, what are some things you do to exceed the expectations of your customers?