To help small businesses thrive, we asked ten successful owners and CEOs for their top customer retention tips. From maintaining relationships with small gestures to creating bonds through personalized milestone recognition, these leaders share their proven strategies for success.
Maintain Relationships with Small Gestures
Small gestures go a long way in maintaining customer relationships and retaining those customers. Hand-written Christmas cards are sent out to every customer every December. This inevitably leads to a busy January, but in the case of customers who don’t need services right away, they are kept in mind with the friendly gesture.
Customers are very loyal because of this, and many other small things done throughout the year to maintain those relationships. Just because a customer doesn’t need services today doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be reached out to in some way.
Empathetically Listen to Build Stronger Relationships
In my life-coaching business, I’ve found that applying empathetic listening is incredibly valuable in improving my customer retention. It involves not just hearing the words that customers say but understanding their underlying needs and feelings.
This depth of understanding can build stronger, more meaningful relationships that make customers feel truly seen and valued. For instance, when my clients share their struggles or aspirations, I dig deeper, aiming to fully understand their emotions and perspectives.
It’s this exact connection that often leads to long-term client relationships, as they feel heard and appreciated on a personal level. This strategy can be effectively applied in other small-business contexts too, turning customers into loyal advocates.
Improve Accountability with Post-Project Debriefs
Upon the completion of every project, we have a creative debrief session with the client. Where possible, this will be in a more sociable space. Regardless, we unpick the project and examine what went well and where the process could have been improved.
We find that being accountable for faults and gaps in knowledge actually builds more trust with the client than it does damage to the relationship. Clients are human too, and they know not everything can go smoothly 100% of the time. They appreciate a team that can be self-reflexive and demonstrate an interest in improving future work with the client.
Treat Existing Clients as New Prospects
Once upon a time, as a marketing agency, we assumed good communication and good work would keep our clients with us indefinitely. Those things absolutely matter, of course. But we found that over time, engagements would shrink to accommodate changing budgets or reduced perceived requirements.
What we actually needed to do, and what we do now very well, is to be proactive in viewing every client as strategically as you might view a new prospect. In order to help our clients grow over time, we now run gap-analyses on what more we can do for them. We educate clients on our services.
We’ve trained our account managers to pay attention to opportunities for upsell. Everything we do for a new prospect, we do for our current client base. Complacency is the enemy of customer retention.
Use Customer Feedback for Improvement
I sat down with one of my mentees a couple of months ago. He owns a small SaaS marketing company and mentioned how he’s struggling to retain customers. I responded, “How are you collecting customer feedback?” and he said he wasn’t.
I suggested he start surveying his customers and asking if they could hop on a video call with him to provide feedback. Last week, I checked in with him again, and he had this massive list of areas for improvement that he wanted to discuss with his development team.
So, if you’re struggling to retain customers, I suggest collecting as much constructive criticism as possible and using this to improve your product or service.
Review Yearly Metric Reports
In our journey as a growing healthcare marketing agency, we pinpointed a specific challenge: retaining healthcare clients around the new calendar year. Our strategic response? Crafting comprehensive yearly metric reports.
These aren’t just any reports—they’re a vivid reflection of the cumulative value we’ve imparted over the months. By showcasing the tangible benefits and results, we not only remind clients of our pivotal role but also bolster their confidence in our enduring partnership. This method has been instrumental in transforming our retention rates and fostering stronger client relationships.
Retain Clients with Price Consistency
During times of inflation, clients are hyper-vigilant when it comes to price hikes and cost increases. Consequently, every time you raise the price for an existing customer, you are putting a barrier in place, discouraging them from renewing with you. This is particularly true in the SaaS space, as clients are becoming increasingly concerned about subscription creep.
Instead, if you keep the client’s price consistent, at least for as long as possible, a straight renewal will incur less deliberation, preventing them from shopping around.
Although, naturally, this often means that long-standing clients receive especially good deals, this represents an excellent way of thanking them for their loyalty, resulting in a net-positive customer lifetime value compared to price rises and higher churn.
Monitor Satisfaction with a Traffic Light System
We spend far more time making sure we retain our customers than we do winning new ones. It’s a far more efficient way to run the business. The key is maintaining what we call our “customer traffic light.” In a Google Sheet, we have every customer listed and they are either highlighted green, yellow, or red.
If they’re green, we lean into that by asking for referrals, testimonials, or exploring ways we can expand. If they’re yellow, we have the action item clearly spelled out to get them back to green. And we’ll ask them directly: “If you’re yellow today, what would need to be true to get back to green?” If they’re red, we make sure we have a clear read on why—if they’re going out of business, we can’t help that. If we’ve stubbed our toe somehow, and there’s a controllable path to get them back to yellow, we do everything we can to deliver on that. But the key is starting with the traffic light and making sure we’re reviewing that every week as a leadership team.
Guide New Users with Supportive Calls
We offer 14-day trial licenses for first-time users of our tool. Unfortunately, we noticed that the conversion rate from trial licenses to purchases was lower than expected. Our tool is quite complicated for beginners, so we assumed new users didn’t want to purchase licenses because they didn’t understand how it worked and had no one to explain it to them.
We started offering a 15-minute call where they are led through each step of setting up a campaign. It turned out that many of them couldn’t find the features they needed, even though our tool has them. This approach to communication with customers not only helps retain 30% of them but also establishes a positive relationship with them from the start. Customers know that they are not left to deal with an overwhelming tool alone, and that our team is always there to help.
Create Bonds with Personalized Milestone Recognition
One of the most transformative customer-retention strategies we’ve implemented is personalized milestone recognition. A particular instance comes to mind when we acknowledged a customer for his year-long loyalty to our platform by sending him a customized message and a token of appreciation related to his favorite game.
His heartfelt response, saying it was the first time a company had recognized him in such a manner, reiterated the power of personal touch. It’s the small gestures, recognizing individual journeys, that have truly helped our business create lasting bonds.