The hard part has been done. Your marketing efforts paid off and you have a new patient. Now comes the next step, what do you to keep them coming back year after year?
Retaining your patient base might be the most important job you have. Your goal should always be to turn a first-time buyer into a stark raving mad fan of you and your business. The good news with this is that it will not cost much. You will not need an expensive marketing program to accomplish this.
It all starts with you and your staff. Make a few changes and focus on a few tasks and you will see your retention numbers grow.
Here are 8 keys to improving your customer retention.
1) Out service your competition
Focus on the little things. Simple gestures like adding a thank you note inside the case when dispensing a new pair of glasses or making sure to drop a happy birthday email. Customers notice and appreciate these little special touches and enjoy being recognized.
Make customer service training an ongoing program in your office. Pay attention to not only how your staff is treating customers but grade yourself as well. We have all finished up a call or face to face sale and upon reflection realized we missed opportunities to service our customer better. Learn from these missed chances and do not repeat the same mistake. Push yourself and your staff to be better every day.
Friends like to buy from friends. Treat your customers as friends and get to know them. Once a relationship is built it is easy to service them better. Do not be afraid to build relationships. This will build a loyal customer base which makes selling easier. With all the competition, there has never been a more important time to retain a strong customer base.
2) Be part of your community
Whether you are in a big city or a small town, you are in a community. Being part of your community allows you to become a brand. Your brand in the community gives your base a sense of being part of something meaningful.
Get your name out there by being involved with community events. Encourage your customers to check in on social media while visiting your office. Utilize any and all chances to get your name out there.
There is a rather large movement going on to support small businesses. Get involved and assure your base that you are a small business. Many independent optical shops have done such a great job of marketing through signage and advertising that customers might think they are a big box. It's your job to show them you're not!
3) Under-promise and over-deliver
Honesty is always the best policy. Speak with confidence to your patients. Consumers do not want to hear sales pitches; they want the truth. Often, we are afraid to speak the whole truth as we believe this will cost us a sale. Be honest with your patients at all times; they will appreciate it in the end.
This includes turn time which often does not match up to their wants. Give them a realistic timetable for their glasses to be done. If they come in earlier, you get to call them and make their day by notifying them that they are done sooner than expected.
Be upfront about adaptation periods with new lenses and prescriptions. Often, they will have very little if no troubles but if they do, they will be ready for them. They will remember what you mentioned before the sale and this will help them get through the adaptation process.
Through all aspects of the sale explain as you go. An educated consumer is far more likely to purchase and will be more prepared for issues and delays if they do occur. This type of service will build loyalty and return business.
4) Focus on brands
Like it or not, people like branded products and in many cases are willing to spend more on brands they perceive can be trusted. Keep up on the latest frame trends and styles. Have a good variety of branded and non-branded frames available to capture a wider variety of customers based upon their needs.
You might not be a branded kind of person but many of your customers are. You might not want to support “big” wholesalers who are competing against you, but your customers are wanting those products. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of being successful.
This includes frames and lenses. Varilux changed their advertising a few years back and now focus it on the end user. Regardless of you feeling towards Essilor/Varilux, I would suggest, once again, in not letting these feelings get in the way of making a sale. Varilux is either not available or priced very high at big box and online. Your patients seeking these products will find someone to buy from, it might as well be you.
5) Keep in touch with your base
Your patients will often go months if not a couple of years without coming in and seeing you. Do not let this time of separation give them a chance to forget about you. There are numerous ways to stay in touch by using technology that might you might already have.
Eblast – Take time to blast out emails to your customer base notifying them of sales, trunk shows, new products, etc.
Newsletters – Just as we do here at IcareLabs, put together a monthly newsletter and put this out to your base. This is a great chance to share with your base what is going on in your world. Take time to give them dates for cool events in your community, attach coupons and maybe even offer giveaways.
Social Media – Use this just as you do your newsletter but post more often. Maybe some cool pics of your staff in your newest frames. Make it fun, informative, and community-driven. Make sure you are asking customers to like/follow your social media pages and check-in.
6) Revive old relationships
Retaining 100% of your base is sadly not a reachable goal. We all lose customers. These lost customers know you. They are familiar with your brand and service but for whatever reason have not purchased in a while.
These past customers are likely to be receptive to your invite back. Do some direct mailers to them along with personal email inviting them back. Offer some incentives such as discounts or coupons. Studies have shown that 25 to 60 percent will repurchase when asked back.
7) Listen to your customers (good or bad)
Feedback on your business, good or bad, is important for you to grow your business. Take time to look online at the reviews. Pay attention to them all and take time to write responses. We all know that most bad reviews are not warranted. There will always be those folks who love to complain over every little thing but often there is some truth to be found.
Take an hour each month and callback a few recent customers and find out how their experience was with you and your staff. Learn from this feedback and make changes as needed. I have heard way too many sad stories of doctors and owners having to recover tons of lost business because of one rogue employee who failed to give good service for months if not years.
Don’t wait until it is too late and you have lost thousands of dollars in sales to find that you have an issue that is costing you return business.
8) Give them your best – they are paying for it!
We all hear how overpriced a pair of glasses are. We know that this is not true but keep in mind, a new pair of glasses might be the most expensive item a customer will purchase that month. How you treat them and products you recommend will often make a difference in how they feel about the purchase.
Your goal is to deliver them the best pair of glasses they have ever worn. Giving them a comfortable vision and superior protection in a friendly, professional manner. When done well your patients will perceive the purchase as a good value. When done poorly they will question the cost.
Not every patient is looking for cheap, most are looking for value. Listen to their needs and fill them with the best products available. This will give them the value that will make them return the next time around.