4 Ways to Turn One-Time Customers into Lifetime Customers

by Emma Siemasko

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While it’s important to attract new customers, retaining your repeat purchasers and building a loyal customer base has to be at the top of your list! Your most loyal customers will not only support your business financially but will also be your best referral sources as well — so giving them a VIP experience helps both of you.

1.  Loyalty Programs
Reward-based programs, such as punch cards, buy x get y free promos or cards that identify a certain number of points, are all ways that loyal customers get the benefits of being a “regular.” These perk programs allow your best customers to get a special experience or a small treat for always coming to you for a product they seek.

How? These programs take on a variety of forms. Think of how your customers would like to be rewarded based on your offerings. Is it a discount? A free item? A photo on the wall? Say you own a coffee shop — a punch card that allows customers to get a free drink after nine coffee purchases is a powerful tool to keep people coming back for more. You can print your own, go through a local printing company or order them online through a medium like Vistaprint for around $10.

Successful Use: Speaking of coffee, Starbucks encourages and rewards repeat customers by sending those who have earned 30+ stars (made 30+ purchases) a coveted Gold Cards  This card earns rewards like free drinks, special offers and a customized card with your name on it so the barista knows who you are as soon as it’s handed over. It’s a VIP experience that makes the customer feel special and part of the company’s inner circle.

2.  Offering Great Products
Product inconsistency is a red flag for your customers. If the quality isn’t consistent, you lose trust from your buyers, which isn’t good news for your business. Guidelines, training and a clear set of standards ensure every customer gets the same fantastic experience each time.

  • Train each new employee. While time is often a resource we simply don’t have enough of, training is essential for each and every new staff member. Proper training allows your team to understand the process and execute their jobs to the best of their abilities. This also allows the new hire to get familiar with the business and sets standards for quality, service and presentation.
  • Make guidelines for your staff. Guidelines and directions will help guide your team through daily tasks and situations in case you aren’t there to field a question. It also helps ensure consistency. Take a restaurant, for example. Each chef needs to know the exact measurements and ingredients to make a meal taste the same every time — so a hard copy recipe needs to be available for reference.
  • Host on-going group trainings. Your employees shouldn’t stop learning after being hired. Group trainings make sure everyone is on the same page and creates a space for questions to be answered. Learning as a group throughout the year keeps skills fresh, improves communication and is an opportunity to learn something new.

 3.  Great Customer Service

Each and every customer deserves to be provided with a high level of customer service — it’s just as important as the product itself. Going above and beyond should be leveraged from the local perspective, as this personal touch is something you can provide in greater quality and quantity than a big box store.

“So much of exceptional day-to-day service comes down to tone – ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ and ‘What else do you want?’ are in essence, asking the same thing, but are wildly different in terms of tone. In other words, great service not only depends on execution (that you asked in the first place), it also depends on perception, or how you communicated with the customer. Getting that right is the first step in building a business people love interacting with.”

— Gregory Ciotti, Help Scout

If you doubt the power of great service, keep these stats in mind:

  • 89 percent of customers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service. (Source: RightNow Technologies)
  • It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience. (Source: Parature)
  • 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. (Source: McKinsey)

How to do it? A few foolproof tips:

  • Greet your customers by name. It feels good to be remembered, doesn’t it? Recalling your customer’s name is an easy way to impress your customer and let him or her know you value their presence.
  • Remember repeat orders. There’s nothing better than being able to walk into a business and be asked, “The regular?” Even if you have to keep a cheat sheet, this tool is an easy way to make your customers feel special.
  • Build relationships. Remember names and orders, but don’t be afraid to take it a step further and learn a bit more about your customers. Ask questions like, “Where are you from?” and “Have any family in the area?” to build rapport and relationships. This also provides content for future conversations.
  • Make exceptions. You have the power to bend the rules a bit to keep your customers happy. If someone asks for an item or a variation – you can grant that wish if you’re willing.
  • Think of the little things – If you sell cupcakes, why not throw in some extra birthday candles? It’s the little details that make a big difference.
  • Deliver (literally). Delivery is one of those special local offerings that can mean a variety of things based on your business. Maybe it means you make a house call for an interior design disaster or you’ll bring product to your customers’ homes to make life easier. Catering to the audience is a service large stores can’t always provide.

4.  Present Your Business Well

This one seems like a no-brainer, but keeping your business clean, visually appealing and in tip-top shape is extremely important. Your business’ presentation is a reflection of the products being offered, the staff and the owner.

“One simple piece of advice for businesses: a product’s look is as important as its functionality.” — Josh Naumu, SewellDirect

  • Consider design. If you’re not an interior designer, you might think that good design is for the birds. You’re wrong — design matters a lot and can make or break it for customers.
  • Hire cleaning help. If you don’t have time to do a deep clean regularly, hire a cleaning service to come weekly or monthly to do the intensive scrub-down and cobweb snatching.
  • Replace burnt-out lights. Lighting on both on the interior and exterior of your building (signage included) should be fully functional.
  • Keep restrooms clean. Clean restrooms are more than functional — they’re stocked with toiletries and are funk free.
  • Remove stains. Stains on walls, carpeting, ceilings and furniture will make your business look sloppy and dated.
  • Organize. Keep your office(s) tidy with filing systems and proper storage.

If your business can convert first-time customers into forever customers, you’re golden. These loyal supporters will be a referral engine, and your high standards for the products, service and presentation of your business will continue to impress new customers — keeping the traffic flow steady through your front door.

*This post is an excerpt from Grow Local: The Complete Guide to Growing a Local Businessby the team at Grasshopper, the entrepreneurs’ phone system.


EmmaEmma Siemasko is the Content Marketing Specialist at Grasshopper, the entrepreneurs’ phone system. Grasshopper provides toll free numbers, call forwarding, and a host of other features to help small business owners sound professional and stay connected. You can follow Grasshopper on Twitter @Grasshopper and learn more at Grasshopper.com.