Eight strategies for retaining your training clients during a crisis
Freelance trainers and smaller businesses - this piece is for you. Kevin Gardner details eight ideas for customer retention.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many trainers hard, forcing some to temporarily close and others to modify their processes on the fly. Retaining loyal customers during a time of crisis is a challenge for any business or freelancer. These eight strategies can help you minimise losses and recover more quickly when the crisis is over.
Shore up your brand messaging
You want to make sure you keep your message out there during the crisis, but that you do not turn off your customers by seeming too sales-oriented or unconcerned about the current situation. Make sure that whatever you are saying is relevant to the current situation and the customer's needs.
Make sure your company website clearly outlines how your business is responding to the current crisis. Use a small business CRM to send messages targeted to your individual customer's needs. Adjust the frequency of your messaging to fit the current mood of the public as the crisis unfolds.
Have a retention mindset
Customers tend to scale back spending during a crisis. This is even more true if the crisis at hand has caused widespread economic uncertainty. While you may be tempted to try to squeeze more sales out of a shrinking customer base, pushing customers to buy during a time of crisis may seem tone-deaf and cause more customers to leave.
Everyone is facing uncertainty during a crisis. Make sure your customers know what they can expect from you.
Instead of trying to convince your customers to buy more, show them ways they can get more value from the products they have already purchased. While this may not produce immediate dividends, it increases the chances that your customers will remain loyal and still be with you when the crisis passes and spending resumes.
Make your rewards programme more rewarding
Customer loyalty programs can be a great way to encourage customers to continue to spend their money with you, but they may have not much value in times when customers are not making new purchases.
Find ways to reward your customers for actions other than purchasing, such as responding to a survey, completing their customer profile, signing up for your email list or adding products to their wishlist. These actions provide you with valuable data and opportunities to build brand loyalty.
Everyone is facing uncertainty during a crisis. Make sure your customers know what they can expect from you. If you are closing temporarily, cutting back products, reducing services, changing refund policies or taking other actions that may affect your customers, make sure you notify them promptly.
You want your customers to feel like everyone is in this together and you are keeping them in the front of your mind when you make business decisions.
Restore service as soon as possible
If the crisis has caused an interruption, your goal should be to resume business as quickly as possible. However, it may not always be possible to do so. In this case, your focus should be on keeping the lines of communication open and being honest with your customers about when they can expect service to resume and at what level.
Do not over-promise or you risk losing customer trust. You also want to avoid rushing ahead when it is unsafe or otherwise unwise to resume business.
Offer ways to come back
If you offer services, some customers are going to understandably want to stop buying during a time of crisis. Try offering the chance to buy gift cards rather than stop buying.. By doing this, you give your customers the chance to save money they may not be able to spare for your services during the crisis while making it easy for them to come back when the crisis is over.
Offer payment flexibility
Customers who are struggling to keep up with the bills during a crisis are more likely to prioritise paying companies who are understanding of the situation and willing to work with them, than ones who remain rigid in enforcing payment policies.
Offering extended repayment terms, smaller monthly payments, waiving late fees and other measures can be used to encourage customers to pay, without giving the impression that your company is unfeeling or pushing customers to give up and not pay you at all.
Take care of your employees
A company that treats its employees harshly during a crisis is likely to face significant public backlash and customer loss. Additionally, unhappy employees are unlikely to provide customers with quality service, which can further hamper your customer retention efforts. Be empathetic and provide as much support for your employees as you can during the crisis.
Retaining customers during a crisis is key to surviving during the crisis and recovering once the crisis has passed. These eight strategies can help you keep the customers you have and put you in a better position to attract new customers when business returns to normal.
About the author
Kevin Gardner is a business consultant for InnovateBTS.
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