We talk about this all the time – as of today, it’s estimated that it costs businesses up to 16 times more to attract new customers than to keep existing ones. With numbers like that, customer retention has got to be a key factor in your marketing strategy.

That’s all fine and good, but how do you actually boost customer retention? It takes more than just deciding to do it.

To get a head start, you can read this post (shameless plug, but hey, you’re already here). Here are 5 tactics that are proven to keep customers coming back for more.

Put Customer Service Above All

Customer service is a huge part of the overall experience that customers associate with your business. 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a particular company because of a negative customer experience. Poor customer experiences can come from everything from rude or unknowledgeable staff to specific issues that go unresolved.

When something like customer service plays that large a role in whether or not customers come back, it’s definitely important to focus on. Providing awesome customer service should be at the very top of your priorities. Here are a few ways to ensure a great customer experience:

Over-Promise and Over-Deliver

When consumers receive a product or service that exceeds their expectations, that’s going to be a positive experience. It’s easy to promise an average product and deliver on it, but by promising an awesome product and delivering something even better, you’re going to wow customers into coming back.

Empower Employees

When employees have to stop and ask management about every little customer query, a lot of unnecessary time and frustration accumulates. By empowering employees to use discretion and giving them the authority to solve customer problems, you’re ensuring that customer complaints can be solved quickly.

Address Problems Quickly and Adequately

Whether you have employees on the front lines or not, addressing any problems that arise for customers is a huge opportunity to create awesome customer service. Complaints are bound to pop up, no matter how amazing your business is. The key is to solve customer issues as quickly as you can, and be sure that your solution is satisfactory to the customer. If not, ask what you can do to keep their business. Don’t underestimate the value of a simple apology.

Be More Than Just a Business

If all your business does is provide a particular product at a particular price, there’s nothing tying customers to your company instead of your competitors. To garner customer loyalty and retention, you have to become more than just a business.

The first step in becoming more is to cultivate an authentic, trustworthy brand. If customers trust you, they’ll be willing to pay more and listen to your expertise. That means they’ll be less price sensitive, and you can more easily upsell them with additional useful products. A great brand is the glue that keeps your customers from defecting to the competition.

Another way to help customers see you as more than just a company is to stand behind and contribute to causes that are meaningful to you or your customer base. Be a member of the community and show that you’re invested in the success of those around you. This part will help create a great brand, too.

Get to Know Your Customers

Getting to know your customers helps them to think of your business as more than just the coffee shop down the street. Showcasing your desire to talk to customers and learn about their lives and experiences shows that you value them and their business beyond the $3 you gain from selling a cup of coffee.

If you have the ability to meet customers in person (i.e. a brick & mortar or retail location), take the opportunity to learn their names. Get familiar with who they are – what they do, what they think, who they care about. If you have “regulars,” learn their favorite order and have it ready when they come in, or offer recommendations for other options they might enjoy.

Keep in Touch

There are plenty of reasons a customer might not come back to your business – and some of them may have nothing to do with a negative customer experience. In order for someone to become a lifelong customer, your business needs to be top of mind. Keeping in touch with existing customers is a great way to achieve this.

There are a lot of different ways to keep in touch – some of the time-tested favorites include email marketing and direct mailing. Consider creating a newsletter that will help keep customers up to date on current sales or specials, product releases, and other updates.

Another point of contact can come from thank you emails or mailings. A handwritten thank you note is a great way to remind customers that you’re awesome after a sale.

buffer thank you note

You can also keep in touch by asking for opinions. Consider sending out a survey – you’ll remind customers about your business and garner valuable insight that you can use for continuous improvement.

Leverage Rewards or Loyalty Programs

It’s no surprise that loyalty programs are good at, well, fostering customer loyalty. There are a lot of different ways to go about offering rewards and loyalty programs, and there are at least as many apps and software that can help.

Offering a loyalty program can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. On the one end, you can offer every 6th coffee free. All you need to do is create punch cards and hand them out. You can even offer digital punch cards so customers don’t have to worry about losing or forgetting them.

On the more robust side, you can offer a full program that includes things like points, prizes, and referral bonuses. Apps like Belly, Perka, and Swipely can be super helpful for both you and your customers to track rewards and loyalty.

Put It All Together

All of these tactics will help you turn first-time buyers into lifelong customers. But if you’re looking to really up your customer retention, putting them all together is a surefire way to boost those numbers. Don’t forget – it’s a lot easier to keep current customers around than to find new ones. If you keep customers happy and engaged, you’ll both be smiling.

What tactics have you used to retain customers?