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How to turn one-time buyers into lifetime buyers

Customer service, both good and bad, has a long-lasting effect on revenue.

Today, customers can immediately go online to express discontent with brands. And, with online purchases and competitor information easily available, a business’s timeframe to please customers during the purchasing phase is short.

So, to gain repeat business, each business must ensure customers are happy at every step of the transaction. Now more than ever, businesses need strategies to build relationships that encourage a lifetime of purchasing.

With that in mind, here are tips to turn one-time buyers into a lifetime buyers:

■  Turn a negative experience positive. Mistakes are inevitable, but they let businesses show customers why their business matters. When businesses own up and make up for mistakes, customers feel respected and heard. Make customers feel special by apologizing and offering refunds, credits or a discounts toward future purchases to make up for errors.

Who doesn’t love discounts and credits? More importantly, learn from your mistakes and work to ensure they don’t recur.

■ Ease customer contact. No one likes sitting on hold for long periods only to be redirected multiple times to hopefully reach the right department. Make it easy for customers to get the answers they seek by doing away with complicated automated directories and recordings. Ensure customer service personnel understand how to answer customer queries. Also, having easy-to-find contact information on the company website and in multiple forms, like phone number, email address, and social media channels.

■ Make interactions human. Interacting with customers in an overly formal “corporate” tone is something of the past. Customers want friendly engagements that make interactions enjoyable. These friendly interactions shouldn’t occur only in person, but also in emails, phone calls, and social media exchanges. By humanizing customer interaction, businesses will eliminate irritations that might discourage repeat customers from reaching out.

■ Build customer relationships by harnessing company knowledge. Businesses gain insight from previous interactions with repeat customers. Technology gives businesses a history of prior purchases, requests and comments. Businesses should make it easy for customers to make repeat purchases by having payment information on file and setting reminders to follow up when a customer’s inventory is low.

■ Take pride in your brand and customers will, too. Having a respected, honest brand creates customer loyalty. Business should be consistent with their mission statement and customer interactions. Employees should be trained on how and what to say to customers to make them come back for more. People want to feel good and do good in their lives. If doing business with a company leaves them feeling good, it’d be hard for them to shop elsewhere.

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Now, take these tips and put them to practice:

▶ Audit your customer service. Conduct an internal review or hire an outside company to assess your program and suggest improvements.

▶ Review your brand. Soliciting opinions from employees and customers. Use these results to steer your internal and external messaging.

▶ Hire a mystery shopper. Contract with an agency that hires mystery shoppers to purchase products from you. Use the reports from these transactions to improve your customer service.

▶ Identify your latest customers. Have you documented interactions with your recent clients? If not, ensure that you do for all future dealings.

Employing these customer service strategies will let businesses better gain lifetime customers. And customers for life position businesses for lifetime success.

Benoît Gruber is vice president, corporate communication with Sage Enterprise Market Europe and Sage ERP X3. He is in charge of product management and marketing for Sage ERP X3. The company provides business management software and solutions.

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