7 Ways to Keep Clients and Customers
Coming Back for More
by Adele Sommers
How do you establish client and customer fidelity — and keep people coming back for more and more of your products and services? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that question, I’d be an umpteen-millionaire. But since there’s no single answer that covers all the bases, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you put your very best foot forward! I’ve organized those tips into three categories:
- Product and service design
- Evaluation and testing
- Customer satisfaction
This article, Part 1 of a series, covers the first two categories of ideas. I’ll delve into the third group in Part 2. Please note that I’ve posed each idea as a question so that you can gauge how your own organization might respond.
Category 1: Product and Service Design
1. How important is it to your organization to design products and services that are easy to use?
Have you noticed how consumers today are pushing back against the raging complexity in many gizmos and gadgets? The trend is definitely shifting toward “less is more.” So, if you design products or services, you, too, can avoid the complexity trap by simplifying whatever is required to access and use what you offer.
Why does this matter? As technology advances, product designers are often tempted to overload their wares with too many features. Although buyers might consider each individual feature useful, the combined effect makes them seem overwhelming and difficult to use. Buyer remorse often sets in when someone takes a product home and then quickly experiences “feature fatigue.” But thankfully, the design pendulum is beginning to swing back in the opposite direction!
2. To what extent have you tried to simplify what’s required to install, set up, learn, access, and/or use what you offer?
If you’ve ever called customer support for help with a product or online service, you know how anxiety-filled the experience can be. Struggling with frustrating bugs, installation, setup tasks, and learning curves can quickly make us feel really resentful. So whenever those hassles demand many hours of precious time to resolve, we might never achieve the purpose for which we turned to the product or service in the first place!
Why does this matter? You can imagine the frustration a customer experiences when working under a tight deadline to get going with a complex product, service, or system. The process becomes even more difficult if the instructions aren’t complete, correct, or clear enough to understand under duress. No amount of discount pricing or other sweeteners will erase the memory of that initial struggle! In contrast, your company will earn much greater loyalty if you continue to simplify every experience that users have with your products and services.
3. How carefully do you try to anticipate how buyers might try to use what you offer under normal conditions?
How do customers interact with the things you offer in usual situations?
Those include a range of routine, everyday ways in which people engage with products and services at home, at the office, on the go, or at school, and even while exercising. There are many different modes to consider!
Why does this matter? Routine uses of products and services may sound simple on the surface, but they still present their own range of challenges. For example, are your products and services portable enough to let people continue interacting with them throughout the day? Can they switch from one mode to another with ease? Are there clear, simple instructions and/or is customer support readily available? These are just some of the many things to consider during the design and testing process.
4. How carefully do you try to anticipate how buyers might try to use what you offer under abnormal conditions?
How do customers engage with the things you offer in unusual situations?
It’s not hard to imagine many scenarios that entail non-routine or emergency circumstances occurring under isolated, stressful, or precarious conditions.
Customers need fail-safe, “bullet-proof” responses to such scenarios to avoid lost time, prevent major failure, and save lives.
Why does this matter? Many customers could be using your products or services at high altitudes or in bad weather, for example. They would run the risk of losing a signal as well as being exposed to heat, cold, wind, rain, ice, and snow. So, are your products well protected from internal and external hazards, such as fast temperature changes, moisture, jarring, glare, electrical shorting, electromagnetic interference, or sudden battery failure? These are some of the many challenges to anticipate when designing for fool-proof operation in the situations where people would need it most!
5. If your product or service fails in a remote or off-hours situation, how easily and quickly can a user recover?
Ponder what could happen if people tried to use your wares in risky or incomplete states under off-hours or remote conditions. If your products were damaged or your systems malfunctioned, would they be able to communicate clearly and meaningfully what to do next?
Why does this matter? Here are two examples:
1) Many critical building, machine, and system maintenance operations occur on weekends or during night shifts when employees are gone and technical support is not necessarily accessible. If something goes wrong, there might not be any human guidance available to help. What happens then, especially if there’s only a short window of time allowed for completing a crucial operation?
2) Customers can become isolated or stranded outside of reception or transmission range. In those cases, what kinds of backup features in your products would take over and guide users through what they can safely do next? By taking all possible factors into account, you can make sure your customers avoid everything from minor annoyances to life-threatening outcomes.
Category 2: Evaluation and Testing
6. How rigorously do you test your products to see whether they work the way they’re supposed to?
Your hard-won reputation can take a downward turn if your products and services don’t function exactly the way you and your customers expect.
Conversely, by rigorously testing and striving to remove all possible defects in advance, you’ll reinforce your customers’ faith in — and their passion for — what you offer!
Why does this matter? Along with a robust design, methodical testing is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your wares behave and respond precisely the way they should. Too many companies leave out testing, or wait until the very last minute to think about it. But whenever testing is crunched or bypassed for any reason, it leads to anything from consumer annoyances to financial losses, accidents, and injuries — and exposes a company to litigation. These outcomes are far more expensive to remedy than simply conducting proper testing in the first place!
7. How closely do you monitor the variation in your product and service quality?
Variation means the extent to which errors, defects, or other inconsistencies emerge in your products, systems, or services.
To ensure smooth, consistent product operation, for example, you’ll want to ensure that every item you produce conforms as tightly as possible to the ideal — as close to perfection as it can be.
In so doing, you’ll make it far less likely that even the tiniest quality gaps will sneak in and produce annoying, aggravating, or catastrophic ripple effects!
Why does this matter? With products, manufactured items should be rolling off the assembly line to meet very precise standards. That means aiming for 100% compliance with specifications, and zero variation between the articles produced.
With services, it may mean having service reps closely follow a script for routine customer interactions, or use general guidelines to make more complex decisions. But either way, their goal is to effectively apply a set of uniform standards when assisting customers. Thus, controlling variation helps ensure the highest possible quality and customer satisfaction — which will keep your clients and customers coming back for more!
In conclusion, by systematically weighing considerations like these in your product and service design, development, and testing, you’ll be certain to attract the kind of audience loyalty that you deserve, and maintain it well into the future. Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out the additional things you can do!
Copyright 2017 Adele Sommers