Customer retention is defined as the activity that a company undertakes in order to reduce customer defections. Successful customer retention starts with the first contact a company has with a customer and continues throughout the entire lifetime of a relationship.
Capturing the client is sometimes the easy part. Keeping them can often be where the hard work begins. Some travel agents become so focused on recruiting new customers that they fail to effectively address the need to retain those that they already have. This is counterproductive considering that it’s far easier (about 50% easier according to Marketing Metrics) to sell to existing customers than to capture new prospects. Agents often tend to focus more on customer addition, whereas customer attrition can have a much more negative impact on their business. For those who feel that customer retention plays a relatively minor role in helping their agency grow a healthy bottom line, here’s something that should give you plenty to think about: Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer.
- Earn customer loyalty
Customers don’t owe you their loyalty. You have to earn it — continually. Having an effective customer retention program in place gives you the ability to identify, track, and custom promote to those customers who are most likely to become loyal, long-term sources of revenue. CRM can help you to keep constantly focused and on message with each of your customers. Loyal customers don’t just come back; they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.
- Fix it!
Customers don’t necessarily expect you to get it right all the time but they do expect you to fix things (and quickly) when things go wrong. Indeed, the real measure of the quality of a company and its commitment to proper customer retention is how they react when things go wrong.
- Identify your profitable clients
Hard to believe sometimes but probably 80% of your profits are generated from just 20% of your clients so try to identify them and fulfil their needs by selling them what they want. Promotions can be a very effective way of retaining customers by keeping them actively engaged with your agency/brand. The key is to run relevant promotions that reward customers, make them feel good about doing business with your agency, and encourage them to do more of the same.
- Recognise and appreciate
Train and coach your staff to accept the idea that they own a part of the business as if it were their own. Take that attitude to sales and customer service and you will have a person who will embrace the customer as if it were a one-on-one relationship between a proprietor and a customer. This is the old-fashioned grass-roots approach – treat the customer with total respect.
- Give a differentiated experience
Offering something the competition doesn’t (or can’t) is a wonderful way to retain customers. In fact, according to a recent study, the ability to deliver a differentiated experience was the leading factor in maintaining customer loyalty.
- Get the right on-hold audio
More than two-thirds of consumers admit to putting the phone down if they’re placed on hold to silence for more than 30 seconds. Playing music or promotional marketing messages can keep them with you longer. However, on-hold audio can have the opposite effect if it is treated as an afterthought. Repetitive jingles or disingenuous apologies for keeping them waiting don’t always go down well. Think about your customer demographic: who they are, and why they’re calling you. The right on-hold audio can keep a customer holding for longer.
- Take care of online customers
Socialising with your customers online can build retention if you do it correctly. The key is to tone down the corporate presence and give your customers a voice and a forum to connect with other customers, and then let them build the traffic. As you build your Facebook fans and twitter followers, stay engaged with them and establish ‘alerts’ so that you can react to whatever is being said (both good and bad) about your agency. Always take care of your social media savvy customers, as they can either be your most powerful advocates or your biggest PR nightmares.
- Contact the client
Many agents tend to be paranoid about contacting clients after they return from holiday for fear that they will open a can of worms. Better to take that (minimal) risk and deal with whatever you find than to ignore it and have clients bad mouthing you to their friends and colleagues behind your back.
- Keep contact with all customers
You should also take the opportunity every year to trawl through your customer records in order to see if there is anyone who hasn’t travelled with you in recent times. This serves two purposes: to ascertain as to whether they booked elsewhere or online or to take the opportunity to update them on new/relevant offers that are available. Either way, you’ll invariably find the exercise worth the effort.
- Under promise and over-deliver
Under promise and over-deliver. Don’t make exaggerated claims in order to close a sale. If you’re presented with a complicated quote that you know will probably take two days to put together, tell the client that you’ll be back to them in three and then surprise them when you revert a day earlier than expected. Always try to exceed their expectations.