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What’s the most important part of a thriving business?
For most, it’s sales.
If you have enough customers, even poorly run companies can still profit. Of course, making sales isn’t always easy.
In fact, it can take several touch points with a prospect before they are ready to buy from you.
For almost all businesses, it is far easier (and cheaper) to retain a customer than it is to get a new one. Research has shown that increasing customer retention by 5% can improve company’s profitability by up to 95%!
Loyal customers have a huge lifetime value because they’ll buy from you over and over again.
That’s why gaining customer trust, and keeping it after a purchase is made, is so important.
And yet, most businesses have massive holes in their customer service.
They spend so much time optimizing their conversion rate for the initial purchase that they forget to spend any real time optimizing what happens after the sale.
This leads to frequent mediocre, or even bad, experiences when things go wrong (which they do on occasion).
A Mattersight study of consumers found that just one bad customer experience caused 70% of consumers to not buy again from that brand.
Most of those bad experiences are preventable.
But most businesses don’t realize that it’s not just the complaining customers who didn’t have good experiences.
According to Dunvegan Group research, 20% of customers who feel “satisfied” with their purchase will switch to a competitor in the future.
So, not only do poor customer experiences decrease loyalty, but even typical ones will result in a large portion of your customers trying out a competitor.
If you haven’t given some serious thought to how your customer experience after the sale affects trust and loyalty: it’s time.
Download a bite-sized cheat sheet of the post to learn how to gain lifelong customers after making a sale.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to show you the 7 keys to keeping customer trust and gaining their loyalty.
1. Does it really need to be said?
The biggest reason why customers leave a brand is because they don’t like the product or service they get.
According to a study, 68% of customers will stop buying from a brand for this reason.
Your number one priority is to improve your customer service when it comes to addressing customer complaints.
Do everything you can to make sure your customers are happy.
Resolving problems with a process: Millions of dollars have been spent over the years on determining how to deal with customer complaints most effectively.
If you do a good job addressing a problem, you can still win that customer’s loyalty as long as the problem was caused by some accident and not negligence.
If you do research, you’ll find tons of different customer resolution models, all with their own clever acronyms: HEART, LAST, etc.
But despite having different letters, they all describe the same main stages:
When a customer comes to you or anyone on your team with a complaint, they should be met with the following:
Listening – Don’t try to fix anything before the customer has been able to vent and explain the problem. Give them as much time as they need.
Empathy – Always try to find ways to relate and connect with the customer. It turns the situation into an “us vs the problem” situation instead of the original “you vs the customer” situation.
Apologizing – You need to try to give every customer the best experience you can. If something goes wrong, a simple apology goes a long way. People can be pretty understanding when you sound like a person and not a corporation.
Solving – First, ask the customer how they’d like the problem to be solved. Or offer your own solutions for them to choose from. Go above and beyond here to maximize your chances of retaining that customer.
Call your own process whatever you like, but it should contain those four elements at the very least (in a similar order).
The two best ways to encourage customers to speak up: Here’s something that might surprise you. The average business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers.
That means that you will never hear from the vast majority of unhappy customers.
That’s a problem.
However, you can double or triple this response rate by making your support more accessible to customers.
Some companies make it difficult to find customer service contact information, or they make their customers go through the hassle of searching through irrelevant documentation first.
Don’t do that.
Display your customer service contact information clearly on your website and also in any emails or letters you send your customers.
You want to hear from them if they have any complaints. That’s your only chance of fixing the problem and keeping a customer.
Yes, it might cost you more to hire an extra customer service rep, but you’ll make 10 times that in the long run from the customers you retain.
Don’t be shortsighted.
The type of contact also plays a role.
A study found that most people prefer to have a conversation with a real person when they have a problem.
This means that the best option for you is to have a toll-free phone number.
On top of that, you want a couple of other methods of contact for those who don’t like the phone.
The most complementary method, in my opinion, is to have a live chat option on your website, especially for anything software-based.
Both of these options should be as easy to find as possible for a customer. Take a look at how HostGator displays its contact information in its header:
What about email? Email is the final option you should consider offering. The study I mentioned before found that about a third of people like using email.
Usually, people use email for non-pressing issues. But if there’s a big problem that needs fixing, they want to talk to someone right away.
If you offer email support, make sure customers don’t wait a week before they hear back from you. They should receive some sort of response within a day.
Go beyond the minimum – follow up: When someone calls about a problem, it’s usually because they’re frustrated, angry, or annoyed. They’re emotional, and it shows.
This is a good thing because many people won’t tell you their problems unless they’re emotional enough.
But after the initial complaint, most will calm down. Even if your initial solution didn’t help much, they aren’t very likely to tell you about it.
That’s a BIG problem. Because if they aren’t thrilled with your solution, you’ve lost their loyalty.
You need to follow up with every single customer that makes a complaint.
Here’s an example of how Groove followed up with a customer who was having trouble integrating Twitter with their software:
They received a response from the customer saying that they got busy and forgot about the problem.
If they forget about the problem, they forget about your product and won’t buy from you again.
Take the time to follow up and see if your customer is thrilled with your solution. If they aren’t, encourage them to contact you again.
Tip: Follow up the same way they contacted you. If they emailed you initially, send them an email follow-up. If they called you, give them a call.
2. Learn to be a psychic for your customers
What if you could anticipate customer complaints?
Then, you could take action to minimize the number of complaints and bad experiences.
Many complaints happen because a customer doesn’t fully understand what they’re buying.
It may be because the sales page isn’t clear, or it may be because the customer is assuming far too much.
Either way, the customer doesn’t get what they expected.
If you think you’re ordering an iPad and get a Surface tablet instead, you’re going to be rightfully annoyed.
So, how do you prevent this from happening?
You need to answer all important questions before a customer buys the product. If they still want to buy after any misconceptions are cleared up, they are much more likely to have a good experience.
Remember that it’s never just one potential customer with a question. So, even if you only get one or two complaints about a specific issue, it could mean there are several other customers with the same problem.
But you can eliminate a significant number of these bad experiences by using a simple FAQ (frequently asked questions) section on your sales page.
For example, here’s what you see on LeadPage’s FAQ page:
I highlighted two that I think are really important even though they are all good questions to include.
“Can I publish my pages on WordPress?” – Some customers would just assume that the landing pages would work on WordPress because everything works on WordPress, right?
In this case, it does work with WordPress. But imagine if it didn’t and someone bought a subscription thinking that it did. They wouldn’t be happy.
“How do I know if my provider’s code will work in your system?” – Any landing page software needs to work with your email marketing provider.
If you bought the software and couldn’t integrate it with your email system, you’d be frustrated because you couldn’t use the product.
This would turn you off LeadPages, and you’d be unlikely to ever buy from them again even if they started supporting your email marketing provider.
Another example of a great FAQ: You can tell when an FAQ is really good because it answers the questions that many potential buyers have.
Not only will good FAQs improve your conversion rate, but they’ll provide all the necessary details to help your potential customer clearly understand the product, improving their overall experience.
Nathan Barry sells a course about building an audience and product called “Authority.”
On his landing page, he has these FAQs:
He offers multiple packages, and I could see how a visitor might not understand that at first.
They come across the packages on the landing page one by one, like this:
By answering the “Which package should I buy?” question in the FAQ, Nathan makes it clear that there are indeed multiple packages and some are better than others.
This prevents someone from accidentally clicking the first “Buy” button they see, thinking that they are all the same only to realize that they bought the wrong product.
This is easy to fix if they contact you, but of course, many won’t. Instead, they’ll just feel disappointed and possibly misled, and Nathan wouldn’t get their loyalty.
3. There’s nothing worse than feeling used
Everyone knows this feeling, and everyone hates it.
Let’s say someone pays you a lot of attention, so you naturally think they like you. Then, as soon as they get something from you, they stop paying any attention to you.
That is, until they need something again in the future.
Don’t let your business be this guy.
Your relationship with your prospects and customers is a relationship. It goes beyond just getting money from them for your products.
They need to know that your primary desire isn’t just to make money but to try to improve their lives and the lives of others like them.
Think about the brands you support the most. You likely do that because they seem like they truly care about the people involved in their work, their customers, and the world at large.
Tesla, for example, is trying to create environment-friendly technology to help the world, not just to make a quick buck.
You can create a similar image of your business in the minds of your customers.
It starts with giving more than you take.
Be mindful of what your sales pitches look like: Just about every smart marketer these days does the majority of their selling through email marketing.
When promoting a product you sell through email, you’ll typically create some sort of a sales sequence.
This is a series of emails that give details about your product, provide case studies, and tackle any concerns your subscribers might have about the product.
The problem is that it often turns into a pitch fest:
A business will aggressively send emails with the intent to sell the product (offer emails).
During this cycle, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, a marketer might send an average of an email a day.
By the end of it, some percentage of subscribers will buy the product.
But what happens to the emails? They stop.
At the very least, they don’t come nearly as often.
Here’s what the new customer sees:
They’re sending me lots of emails about how this product can solve my problem
They make a good case
Okay, it seems like they’re really interested in helping me out, so I’ll buy it
…(2 weeks later and zero communication or one email)
Oh…they just wanted my money
And that’s how you instantly lose a customer for life.
If you’re sending a lot of emails right before someone buys something and then go quiet, your customer will feel used.
Instead, continue to send them emails that offer free solutions to other problems they might have.
This is, in essence, content marketing.
For example, Ramit Sethi is the founder of the 7-figure business I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
He recently promoted his course “Zero to Launch” to his email list.
Guess what happened after he closed the course? That’s right, he went right back to sending valuable free content:
Let’s just take a second to see how a customer feels in this case.
Ramit promises that his course could make a huge impact in your life and that it’s truly a good thing for you.
You believe him and buy it.
Instead of dropping off communication, he sends you your product, but he also sends you more free information about how you can solve other problems.
That has to give you the impression that it’s not just about the money for him. It shows that he really cares about continually providing value to you so you can improve your life.
4. Support before moving forward
After you get a new customer, one of the worst things you can do is to stop communicating with them. We just saw that.
There’s one other really bad mistake that you want to avoid, and that’s promoting another product before they’ve even received the first one.
When someone buys a product, they’re trading their money for your product.
However, if they purchased it online, they may not get that product for a while. Usually, that’s at least a few days if it’s a physical product.
At this point, they’ve given up money but got nothing in return, which makes them feel like you owe them something—which you do.
But if you just ask them to buy additional products at this stage, they have no choice but to think that you don’t really care if they get what they’re owed. It seems like you only care about making money from them.
It’s a great way to lose a customer.
To illustrate this further, let’s say someone asked you to lend them money. Imagine how you would feel if they came back the next day or week asking for more money without having re-paid you the original amount.
Most people are going to be offended, angry, or annoyed.
The takeaway: You need to take care of all aspects of your customer’s order before moving them on to any future products.
A good friend always checks in – As someone who has sold both products and services, I love seeing how they improve the lives of my customers.
It’s a very rewarding part of business, and I hope you enjoy it too.
All you need to do is show this interest—show that you care.
Check in with your customer after an appropriate amount of time (enough to receive and possibly try the product).
One company that does this is Dell, the computer company. Two to three weeks after a computer is supposed to be delivered, a customer service rep will call the customer to check in.
The main purpose is to make sure that the computer arrived and that there are no big issues. This is also a great way to discover more of those complaints that you normally wouldn’t hear about.
Another example is Prograde, a supplement company.
In an email following an order, they encourage you to contact them if you have any problems at all.
5. Case studies aren’t just for selling
Regardless of whether someone just bought something from you or is considering buying from you, you want them to think one thing:
That if they buy it, they will be making a good decision. It will make them happy.
A lot of factors go into that feeling, but more than anything else, it is seeing the results of others.
If you showcase happy customers in your case studies, it’ll help your new customers feel like they probably just made a good decision instead of feeling buyer’s remorse.
The better someone feels after buying one of your products, the more likely they are to buy again in the future.
You build loyalty by delivering a good feeling.
Of course, case studies are also powerful sales tools. They can have a significant impact on your conversion rate.
They help in two different ways.
Again, Ramit is a great example of that.
Near the end of his sales cycle, he sent an email showcasing different customers who had bought the product and were now doing great:
He had about 10 different mini case studies in that email.
I strongly recommend using case studies as part of your content marketing and sales process. They are one of the most effective tools to build trust with your readers.
Here is my guide to writing killer case studies.
6. If you do one thing, do this…
All the things we’ve talked about so far deal with fixing mistakes.
And you should do them.
But there’s one thing we haven’t addressed yet…
How do businesses stay profitable even when making these mistakes?
Sure, they could profit more, but they’re doing okay as it is.
The answer is that they have a good product.
And if you have a great product, the other things we’ve looked at don’t matter as much. If you truly have a great product, your customers will have a great experience even if something else is slightly off.
Most importantly, if you have a product that is way better than any of your competitors’, you leave customers no choice but to be loyal.
Even if they tried your competitor, they would quickly see that your product is far superior and come back to you.
Deliver on your promises: Anyone can make a product sound great, but can you actually deliver on those promises?
A great example of making big promises is “Kopywriting Kourse”, a very popular course on copywriting.
On the landing page, the creator breaks down all the modules that someone who buys the course gets.
Anyone can claim they have awesome tricks and techniques, but actually delivering that is another thing.
Further down, he gives out his phone number to show how much he stands by his product:
Without actually buying the course, that’s about as sure as you can be that he will deliver on his promises.
You can deliver in different ways: You may not be able to standardize some aspects of your product or service.
A good example of it is Nathan Barry’s “Authority” course that we looked at earlier.
In one of his packages, he offers a one-on-one call on top of everything else he promises.
All the books and tutorials are easy to deliver. He can have those sent automatically. Those are fixed products.
However, the phone call isn’t.
If you promise something that can vary, like a phone call, you need to exceed all expectations.
A potential customer will expect to be able to set up the call in a reasonable amount of time, say a week or two after buying. They will also expect a full hour.
There are three main scenarios for delivering the product—the phone call—which have wildly different outcomes.
Let’s look at these hypothetical scenarios:
Nathan delivers slowly – Maybe it takes a few months to finally schedule the call. The customer can easily find better service somewhere else in the future. Nathan didn’t deliver in this scenario.
Nathan delivers as expected – This is okay, and many customers will be happy with this.
Nathan exceeds expectations – Not only does he schedule the call whenever is convenient to the customer (including the first few days after buying), but he also spends an extra 30 minutes with them.
The last option costs him 30 minutes of his time initially, but that’s how you blow away a customer.
Now, they will trust you no matter what because not only did you fulfill your promises, you exceeded them. Those 30 extra minutes will likely lead to thousands of dollars of revenue in the future.
The takeaway: Make big promises about your products, but make sure that your product lives up to those expectations. If possible, go above and beyond those expectations.
7. Everyone wants to feel special
One of the most effective ways to increase customer loyalty is to reward it.
If you give your customers something extra, they will feel a bit indebted to you, based on the reciprocity principle.
Most will feel obligated to give something back to you somehow.
Some do that by telling others about how great your products are, while others will do that by being a loyal customer. Either way, a small investment upfront can really pay off.
Your options depend heavily on your specific business, but here are four main types of rewards you can give out.
Example #1 – Exclusive offers: No one likes being pitched to. That is, unless it’s an actually amazing opportunity that only they get.
ProFlowers is one of many online flower shops.
They send out massive discount offers around big occasions, but only for their returning customers.
For most customers, getting an offer like this is a gift since they know that they’ll be buying the flowers anyway. This just saves them a lot of money.
In the future, they’ll have no reason to go anywhere else when they need to order flowers.
Example #2 – Loyalty programs: If you sell products that are frequently re-ordered, a loyalty program can be a great way to retain customers.
The most common, and successful, examples of this are fast food places. You buy 6-12 of something like a sandwich, and you get one free.
Online stores also take advantage of this type of program.
For example, the soccer store Soccer.com offers customers the chance to become a “goal club member.”
If they accept, they get reward points that can be converted to discounts on future purchases. On top of that, they get other benefits:
If someone is a member and is going to buy soccer stuff, they’re obviously going to shop at this store.
Example #3 – Fun bonus events: Any potentially free thing that you can offer to your customers is a good thing.
For example, an online food ordering website GrubHub runs an annual “Yummy Rummy sweepstakes”.
Anyone who has ordered three times in the past is allowed to play.
The customer gets to pick a card, and they have a 25% chance of winning something small, e.g., a drink, dessert, etc.
This is no different than McDonald’s Monopoly event. It gives customers an extra fun reason to go there rather than to a competitor.
Example #4 – Samples: Finally, another way you can reward customers is by surprising them with free samples (if possible in your niche).
For example, Bodybuilding.com often throws in small free samples of supplements that customers love.
Even though the samples aren’t worth much, customers like them, which increases their customer loyalty.
If they need to buy fitness gear in the future, they’re going to buy from this store because they were given free stuff in the past.
Find any way you can to show your customers that you really appreciate their business.
That’s how you make them feel special and earn their loyalty.
It’s true, making a sale is difficult.
But once you do, your work doesn’t end there.
If you want to maximize the value of a new customer, you need to convert them into a loyal, repeat customer.
To do that, you have to show that you deserve their trust and loyalty.
I’ve shown you the 7 main keys to building customer trust and loyalty after a sale, which you can start using right away.
Start with one or two, and then try the rest over time.
I’d love to hear about your experiences trying to improve customer trust and loyalty. Share them by leaving me a comment below.