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13 customer retention tips for small businesses


Markitors, March 29, 2021

What can a small business do to improve customer service and retain more customers?

We asked customer service professionals, small business owners, and even operations experts for their best customer retention tips. From writing handwritten thank you notes to perfecting an onboarding process, here are 13 things a small business can do to improve customer service and retain more customers.

13 ways SMBs can improve retention and provide better service

1. Handwritten thank you notes

A simple, handwritten thank you note builds a deep connection with customers. Our business has sent more than 2.5M handwritten notes to help companies improve their customer service and retain more customers. The thing we’ve been amazed by the most is just how powerful a thank you note can be. If you are looking to show customers you care about them, just write and send them a note telling them how much you appreciate their business.

David Wachs, Handwrytten

2. Treat customers like family

At our historic hotel, we are sure to treat every guest as if they were a family member visiting us for the weekend. This is why we have a concierge team that is dedicated to helping our guests book excursions and find all the local gems in the Northern Georgia Mountains. This is an experience that big hotels can’t offer, and it is a major reason why so many travelers chose to stay at the Lake Rabun Hotel.

Gwen North, Lake Rabun Hotel

3. Monthly check-ins with customer support team

You should have monthly check-ins with your customer support team to address their success and challenges over the last 30 days. It is easy to get burnt out in customer service, so by acknowledging their hard work, you can improve their overall happiness and motivate them to continue going above and beyond for your customers. On the flip side, you should also give them a platform to share their challenges so that you can find ways to support them and retain your customers.

Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional

4. Deliver results

The hardest thing to do in business is building a product or service that lives up to the value proposition of a company. But, if you deliver results and do something that works, you’ll retain customers. I’ve learned that in order to deliver results, a company needs to get very clear on what they do best.

Brett Farmiloe, Terkel

5. Reply to reviews

Make sure you always reply to people’s reviews! Not only does this help with search engine visibility, but it lets people know that when they have something to say about your company, you listen. Graciously thank the reviewer for the good reviews and come up with actionable solutions for any negative reviews.

Peter Babichenko, Sahara Case

6. Perfect your onboarding process

I am a strong believer in having a detailed onboarding process for each one of my clients. Hiring an interior designer is a huge financial commitment and time investment. It is easy to get overwhelmed and lost once the process gets started. Having a clear and detailed onboarding process for each client helps the process go smoother. They know what to expect, I answer questions beforehand and everyone is on the same page. This greatly improves customer service as we move the process forward and sets us up for success to retain them as a client for future projects.

Alisha Taylor, Alisha Taylor Interiors

Related reading: An introduction to effective customer onboarding

7. Be quick to resolve issues 

No company is perfect. There are hiccups with any process and sometimes, you may be late delivering something, your customers might not see the results you promised or your services might not meet expectations. The best way to retain customers, especially after they have a less than ideal experience with you, is to quickly work with them to resolve the issue they are facing. Be transparent, be resourceful, and work in a timely manner to right the wrong. Going above and beyond for clients will ensure that they know you care and will make them want to come back to your business again.

Kayla Centeno, Markitors

8. Anonymous surveys

The best way to identify ways to improve your customer service is to ask your customers! You can do this through a simple anonymous online survey. Oftentimes, they will have fantastic insight on how you can improve your processes since they have a unique perspective people within your company can’t see.

Brad Sacks, More Than Gourmet

9. Ask the right questions 

Customer service is about the little things and committing to getting better each day. But in order to effectively retain customers, a company needs to step back and see how everything works together. How do internal systems support an approach to customer service? How do external manufacturer relationships connect to internal systems? By asking the right questions, a company can pair character with competence to provide consistent value to customers.

Andy Newstrom, Arrow Lift

10. Don’t neglect initial customer touchpoints

Dealing with customers is a delicate art. Identify all the customers’ touching points, especially the first point in the customer journey. Every time customers interact with your business, you have to make a good impression. Many businesses neglect some crucial first touching points, rendering the rest of the customer journey useless. Example: for a small phone shop, the first customer touching point is when the customers park their car. A grumble security guide will not make a good impression at all. However well-prepared your staff inside the shop, it could not make up for a loss of goodwill in customers’ minds.

Jill Sandy, Constant Delights

11. Log the life cycle of a complaint 

As a customer, nothing is worse than feeling like you’re screaming into a pillow. You mail the company and get an auto-response. You call customer service and can’t seem to get in touch with an actual representative. The best way to improve performance is to log the life cycle of a complaint. Being responsive doesn’t just mean automating responses to common problems. It also means giving users a means to either report that the common solutions didn’t work or reach a representative directly. When someone reports that the common solutions didn’t work, a clock should start. They should get an auto response immediately saying that the problem has been forwarded. Then they should get a response from a representative within one business day.

Mark Varnas, Red9

12. Identify root causes

Start by identifying the root causes of customer service problems in your business. For example, if customers complain about a late delivery for their orders, then focus your effort on that pain point (e.g., test using a new courier service for deliveries instead of having employees make deliveries). Once that problem is eliminated, then solve the next greatest customer service problem that drives your customers crazy.

Bruce Harpham, Technology Marketing Consultant

13. Include the unexpected

Include the unexpected when delivering a product or service. We’ve found that customers appreciate and are pleasantly surprised when we include something complimentary for doing business with us. By under promising and over delivering, these simple additions can help reduce complaints, increase referrals, and grow our business.

Henry Babichenko, Eurodenture

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Markitors is a digital marketing startup located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. We connect small businesses with customers... and have a great time doing it.

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