Last week I read a great post on Entrepreneur.com which revolved around a simple idea: giving existing customers the same experience as new customers, to keep them loyal.

"Treat Loyal Customers As Well As You Do New Ones" by Karen Mishra points out that it's easy to remember to put extra effort into being friendly and welcoming to new customers, but when customers return many businesses don't give them that same warm welcome.

Many businesses seem to believe that it's crucial to impress first time customers with awesome customer service and a friendly customer experience because doing so will turn them into repeat customers; but that doing it again when they return isn't needed because they are already loyal. They probably aren't loyal though, and it was probably a combination of your product and that warm service which made them return. So guess what, you need to keep it up to keep them returning and returning and ret...etc.

This post builds upon some of the points Karen made in her article and also explains how those in a digital setting can bridge the gap between new and existing customer experience even more easily than in an offline setting.

Customer experience is becoming more important every year and 2015 is set to be the year where your customer experience will make or break your business.

 

Don't take return customers for granted

It all starts with a pretty obvious idea. Simply don't think that your existing customers need you, because they probably don't...it sounds horrible but you have competitors and if your competitors go a little further with providing a warm customer experience every time, they'll steal your regulars. 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

I believe that with online customer service it can be a little easier to treat everyone the same way as you are probably dealing with a much higher volume of customers and they often don't reveal themselves as new or returning. Your brain doesn't have time to think "ohhh this guy buys from us all the time, I don't have to worry about being courteous, I'll take my time to respond and get on with other stuff". Which you shouldn't be thinking anyway.

Be friendly, be helpful and be efficient with every single new/existing/potential customer which interacts with you. No matter which communication channel you use.

 

Remember names

Calling a customer by their name rather than sir or madam usually feels a lot friendlier. It establishes a rapport between you and them.

If you are conversing with a customer through a channel in which it's common for customers to not immediately reveal their name (i.e. live chat or phone), go ahead and ask them for it and introduce yourself. This makes customers feel like more than just a revenue source and is all part of that important customer experience.

How do you give returning customers this same friendly experience? Don't ask them for their name, you should already know it. Remembering all of your customers from nothing but sight will be pretty hard (so you're forgiven for not knowing someone that is just returning for the first time) but with email, ticketing, live chat and other digital tools it's easy. When you have an interaction with an existing customer online then your previous conversation history should be available.

Even if you don't remember them specifically you can make them feel like you can. Use their name straight away and ask them how they are enjoying their previous purchase. This can build trust and loyalty with those customers which have returned.

 

Ask how you can help and then listen

Every customer has different needs and different reasons for coming to your business. You should be listening to all of your customers when you offer help. Try to really find the perfect product for their needs or solve the exact problem which they have.

Regular customers usually need less assistance in order to have a positive customer experience. Returning customers understand your delivery costs, your product specifications and return policies (most likely) but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve the same care and attention when they have a problem. All of your customers should be listened to and you should give each one of them the time needed to resolve their problem and make them happy.

Returning customers are also a great source of feedback. They've already tried your products or service and they no doubt have some opinions on it. Listening to these opinions and putting criticism to use is a sure fire way to improve your business in a way that adds value for your customers and encourages them to become loyal. Digital channels are a great source of feedback as customers can take their time filling in a review for you and you can retain it for future reference. Listening to and remembering every little detail in person can be difficult, it's a lot easier with a computer.

 

Add a thank you

This point can't be put any better than Karen has put it in her article: "It's easy to take regular and loyal customers for granted, but always thank them for returning to support your business".

Saying thank you shows all of your customers that they truly mean something to you and showing that you care can put you ahead of the competition. If an online repeat customer has made a particularly large purchase or returns regularly then consider sending them an extra thank you after your conversation..perhaps via an email and perhaps even in the form of a small discount off of their next purchase (just as another friendly gesture).

 

So the crux of the article is you should be providing a positive customer experience for existing customers (not just the new ones) as they are just as important, maybe even more, and it could be the only way of not losing them to competitors.

The Loyalty Effect author Frederich F. Reichheld found that it is more profitable for a businesses to keep loyal customers rather than to always have to scramble to find new ones. His research showed that loyal customers can provide a business some client referrals and increased profits, when these individuals decide to stay and pay more rather than look elsewhere for a cheaper alternative.

It's very easy to put in that extra effort online for both sets of customers, so it just makes sense to try and wow all of your customers with a friendly and warm customer experience.

 

Click here to read the original article in full from Karen Mishra on Entrepreneur.