Hold on to your customers

Customer retention is a hot topic at the moment and it tends to be so in every recession as the flow of new customers dries up as soon as the recession bites. At that point, companies turn their focus on keeping their existing customers in an effort to limit the financial damage.
And it’s not easy.
Not only new customers are hard to find during periods of economic stagnation, but the existing customers tend to go under more frequently, or review their costs and decide to cut down expenditure and inevitably more customers will leave during these times.
All this means you have to think more seriously about how to retain your customers before they actually leave you. Once they’ve made their minds up, it will be nearly impossible to change that. Be proactive and actively work on customer retention.
Here’s a starting point, a list of 5 points to keep your customers happy:

1. Establish a dialog

Tell your customers what you do, tell them about changes, improvements you’re making. Tell them about what’s new in the market.
But that’s only part of it. Encourage the customers to get into a dialog, so they tell you what they think, give you feedback, which leads into the next point … engagement.

2. Engage your customers

This is all about making your customers be more active, give you your feedback. Some ways to do that: feedback forms, surveys, forums, newsletter.
But go the extra step: call them and ask them for feedback, what they think. Some might not have the time to talk, but others will appreciate the extra mile you’re going.

3. Be there when they need you

Support should be fantastic. Reply to emails quickly and with good quality, helpful content. Do not reply for the sake of being responsive – aim to solve problems.
If you take phone calls, be helpful, polite and if you don’t know the answer be honest, tell them you will get back to them with an answer. Make sure you do.
When things go wrong, admit it, solve their problem, say sorry and maybe compensate them somehow – a small gift, discount and so on.

4. Improve the product / service

In a study done in the US, the main reason for customers leaving was poor customer support. The second main reason was poor product / service experience and quality.
Use all the feedback you get from your customers to improve your products and services.
Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing too and make sure you don’t fall behind.

5. Surprise your customers with little things

Surprise your customers with some unexpected little things: add something to their order, a thank you note, an extra small product, add a hand written note, call them to ask them how they’re doing, send a happy birthday note, give them a partial refund when you make a mistake, send them a small gift and so on.
The list is endless.
They will be pleasantly surprised because almost no other business does that and you will stand out.

Actionable information

Once in a while I experience something very discomforting and embarrassing at the same time. As much as I would like to think I’m special, I’m convinced others do go occasionally through the same thing. Here’s what’s happening and it will sound very trivial perhaps:

I, sometimes, pick up a book and I know instantly: I’ve read this book, but I cannot remember anything that was in it.

It’s like I read it but my mind was somewhere else. Now this simple realization raises a series of questions, some existential questions, some more pragmatic in nature:

  • Why am I reading these books? Am I looking for some type of information that I didn’t have before? Am I looking for someone to bring order & balance to my thoughts and the information I already have? Or is it because I am looking for reinforcement, encouragement in the knowledge that others are thinking through the same problems?
  • What is my selection criteria? This ultimately reflects my immediate attention and that can go off-topic, off-course pretty easily. The question is … am I focusing my attention on something that will ultimately help me advance towards the strategic goals I’ve set for myself (you have strategic goals, right?)
  • How is reading helping with that advance? How am I benefiting from the books? How do I use the new information? The sad truth as I discovered is that I forget most of it.

This last point brings with it the realization:

I only benefit from the new information when the information is actionable and I DO take action.

Actionable really means that you can do something with the information, something practical, something that you can put into words, something that you can describe into a TO DO task. For example, if a book suggests that the best idea to improve customer service is to talk to your customers and ask them what can you improve, then the action is “select 5, 10, however many I can handle, customers and ask them how I can improve the service”. Or “come up with a survey and send it to them by email”.

Something you can actually DO, something you can ACTION upon. Not just abstract theory, but something practical.

But that’s only half the story, the other half being: “and I DO take action”. This bit is very important because most of the time, this is the part that’s failing me. I read books while I’m away and I either fail to take notes, fail to revisit the book when I’m at my computer, or simply decide it’s probably not going to work, or it’s too hard to implement. All of these are failures to act and are as bad as not identifying actionable information, or reading books which do not have any actionable information in them.

Getting back to the part about forgetting, well, that’s only natural. We are not machines, and our brain can only store so much information and keep it in the active memory – or short term memory if you want. We forget easily because there is always something else, new information, new books, new websites, new blogs. So don’t keep it all in your brain,

Write notes!

Keep a to do list with all the tasks/actions that you want to take and keep them in the list. Spend time building the list and spend some time going through the list and getting things done. You can prioritize the actions on the list to make sure you get what’s important and urgent done first.

This is nothing new!

There are thousands of books suggesting you should do this, millions of blogs and even more applications that will help you keep to do lists. This is a topic as old as written language, but…

It’s difficult to actually apply it!

which is why there are new books and new apps doing to do lists. It’s difficult to do because it’s not about the books, it’s not about telling you how to do it or telling you that you should do it. It’s about actually doing it, every day. These apps won’t do it for you. You have to do it.

It’s hard because it requires the discipline to do it every day. It’s not a one-off trick, it’s a modus operandi, a way of working and a way of life, day after day. It’s hard because there are no shortcuts.

Which is why we’ve implemented yet another app to do “to do” lists in a CRM app. It’s because it’s not about the app, it’s about you. But really, looking after your customers is the best example of dealing with “actionable information” as looking after your customers is a long term activity, one that you undertake every day, but also one where you potentially don’t have to deal with a customer for several weeks or months before you have to pick it up again where you left it off.

If you don’t take notes to know where you left it off, you will lose in the long term.

So take full advantage of our “Tasks” feature and keep track of your todos, meetings, events, follow ups, set reminders for calls, emails that need to be sent out. Your customers will love you for it!

 

 

Clevertim small business CRM API is out

We’ve released an API to allow our users to access their CRM data programatically.
It’s a REST-ful API which uses the 4 HTTP verbs: GET (access data), POST (create new data), PUT (update existing data), DELETE (delete existing data) to access all their Clevertim.com CRM data.
For data formatting we are using JSON.

The API is open source, can be used with curl or from any other language that supports making http and https requests. You can access it on github here:

https://github.com/clevertim/clevertim-crm-api

This API is part of our integration effort and it opens up our system to 3rd party integrators who we fully encourage to take advantage of our patience!

“What’s the best CRM” question?

One of the first question I get when I talk to small business owners about CRM is: “what is CRM?”. Sometimes this is unspoken, in the form of a blank stare or maybe an insecure nod. The reality is the vast majority of small business, micro-businesses and solo-preneurs have never heard of CRM. They know they need to manage their sales better, improve the way they communicate with their customers, improve their customer support and retention, but they can’t put a name to it.
On the other hand, CRM is a bit of techie term and it probably sounds more complicated than it actually is. Once the term is explained to them, they do understand and they are able to map it onto their needs and they see how CRM can solve some of their problems.

The other most common question I get is: “What’s the best CRM”? At this point the customer understands and is familiar with the term. The first instinct is to go for a recommendation and, like in every buying process, try to get the market leader, the best in the class product.

The problem with this question is that the CRM market is very broad and deep. There are lots of solutions available, some targeted to big companies, some to medium, some to small businesses. Some are designed for usability, some for customizability, some are simple and easy to use, some come with a lot of batteries included that they can be overwhelming in the beginning and/or require a lot of customization.

So what should a buyer do?

A buyer should start by trying out as many CRM systems as possible and viable. This is for two main reasons:

  • To get a feel for what’s available on the market and to get familiar with what it means to use a CRM, which will lead and help with the second point:
  • The exercise will help you refine your understanding of your own requirements. What is the right CRM for you? What is the best fit for the way YOU work? Is it easy enough to use? Will you (and your team) like using it every day?

Ultimately you need something that’s easy to use, a system that you and your team are comfortable to use, meets your business requirements and makes your life easier.

At Clevertim, we’ve designed the system with the small businesses in mind – and we actually mean small businesses, mini-businesses, micro-businesses, sole proprietors, one man band, and so on. We’ve made it easy to use, easy to learn, we’ve made it easy to instantly collaborate with your co-workers. It’s also a CRM designed to improve your productivity by being quick, eliminating slow server refreshes, clicking on links is an instant operation. Small things add up to increased productivity.
Why don’t you give it a try today? We’ve made it easy by putting a big “Quick demo” button on our first page – no registration, personal details, credit cards or other non-sense.