We asked our followers what their biggest business challenges are at the moment and what topics they’d like us to cover here.

Customer retention was the issue of greatest concern and interest. Whether in retail or business, people are feeling more vulnerable and less financially secure, meaning that new customers are in short supply and existing customers are quick to jump ship for the cheapest deal or better service. The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) reports that customer satisfaction is at its lowest point for several years. So, is customer retention a lost cause? Or is there a real opportunity for positive change?

In terms of short-term action, the UKCSI report says that organisations need to make it easier for customers to get help and sort problems, through competent people and simple online support. We’d certainly echo that!

However, our wider experience is that, regardless of economic conditions, the key driver of customer loyalty is TRUST. Without genuine trust in your product and service, customers will always be looking for something else. We’ve found that the three most critical factors influencing trust are clarity about what’s on offer, consistency of service and confidence in communication. If one or more of these is missing, the chances are that customers won’t stay for long.

And remember the reasons a customer came to you initially probably won’t be the things that will keep them. For example, our work in commercial property shows that the main reason people choose an office is the location. However, once they’ve moved in, the most important factors are things like temperature, internet speed and, of course, service.

Here are three further pointers for any business, whether private or public sector, retail or B2B, to help build customer retention:

1. Little things make a big difference.

Pay attention to what’s important to your customers and what ‘one change’ in your service would make a positive difference for them. Often it will be something pretty small that doesn’t cost much but puts a smile on their face because you listened and acted!

2. Do what you say you will.

Our research tells us that the number one irritator for customers is to be told something will happen and then it doesn’t happen, so they have to chase. The key is to realise when you’ve made a commitment (even something loose like ‘leave it with me’), take ownership and deliver as promised. If there’s a problem, let the customer know and be ready to offer alternatives.

3. Keep the relationship going.

Have you ever been to a restaurant and got welcomed, seated and served quickly, only for things to slow down as the meal progressed? You can’t attract their attention, you can’t get the bill and they seem to be more interested in the people coming in the door? Don’t be that restaurant. Build a genuine, ongoing relationship with your customers and make your service feel as personal to them as possible.

#customerretention #customerservice #leadership #serviceleadership #trust #UKCSI

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