If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you understand the importance of customer retention. Acquiring new customers is one of the biggest expenses in most companies. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to ensure the loyalty of current customers. Not only is it good for word of mouth and your overall reputation, creating a service experience that prevents them from straying to your competition is what will truly help take your company to new levels. In fact, the easiest way to grow your business is to keep your current customers coming back.

First, let’s look at why customers don’t stick with a company they’ve done business with in the past. Statistically, 70% will look elsewhere because of poor service, which they usually attribute to the salesperson. If they feel a sense of indifference from the person they’re dealing with, people will seek out a company they view as caring more about their individual needs. On the other hand, people who feel they are dealing with an exceptional salesperson are 10 to 15 times morelikely to become a repeat customer. This goes back to something I tirelessly teach technicians at our schools: Each individual is the brand.

As much money as you put into designing a nice logo or the perfect marketing piece, it’s important to realize each technician and customer service rep is your brand. They are the personal connection and experience a customer has with your company. If they create an exceptional experience for your client, he is very likely to call you next time he needs your services. If he has a negative experience with your technician, he probably will be calling your competition.

Believe it or not, 80% of clients who say they are simply satisfied with their experience won’t even tell you if they had something negative happen; they will just look elsewhere next time. They won’t necessarily tell you what was wrong, but I can guarantee they will tell their friends. This is why the service needs to exceed their expectations every time. Here are a few pointers regarding how to provide an experience that will make your customers want to remain loyal to your company.

1. Make your customers feel special.The last thing they want is to feel as if they’re “just another service call” to your company. Train your technicians to ask good questions regarding their specific home, lifestyle, needs and wants. Also, communicate the importance of good listening skills. As your customers are answering these questions, your technicians should be listening intently, possibly even jotting a few notes. Then, demonstrate how your services can enhance their lives based on the information they have given you.

2. Reliability and integrity are paramount.Always do what you say and customers will have no reason to doubt you. Make sure your technicians are able to arrive on time. If not, give your customer a phone call, even if the tech will only be a few minutes late. If you are viewed as being reliable, you are gaining trust, and we all know people like to do business with companies they trust.

3. Keep in touch.You want to ensure you are in front of your customers periodically, through social media, phone calls, newsletters, email and/or blogs. This helps strengthen your relationship and top-of-mind awareness.

4. Always offer service agreements.If you’ve trained your technicians to understand the importance of customer service and retention, the concept of a service agreement should make perfect sense. However, remind them “they are not their own customer.” Your technician wouldn’t personally need a service agreement because he knows how to do the work himself, but your customers don’t have those skills.

Your customers like the peace of mind that they won’t have to worry about maintenance and are getting a bit of a price break based on their commitment to your company. Committing to a service agreement is one of the best ways to ensure loyalty; just make sure they are still receiving exceptional service, even on a maintenance call.

Every call counts

Every single interaction is an opportunity to keep or lose a customer; it’s that simple. Recently, the lovely Christy and I were in Newport Coast, Calif., where we like to spend some downtime when we get the opportunity. We decided to have lunch at a pizza restaurant where we had eaten once before and had a great experience. The service, food and atmosphere were all top-notch, so obviously we were excited to return.

This experience, however, was different. The restaurant wasn’t very busy, yet our waiter seemed to be scrambling around, taking way too long to deliver our beverages and food, and being short with us for no apparent reason. Christy and I discussed whether we would ever come back to this restaurant based on the poor service, even though the food and atmosphere were still great. At the end of our meal, the waiter brought our check and explained that the computers were down and the wait staff had to manually record orders, which wasn’t his strong point.

Now, think about this: What if he explained what was going on at the beginning of the meal? We would have been more understanding and felt good about the fact that he was communicating with us. Or, what if he hadn’t given any explanation at all? We would have likely decided never to return. There are plenty of other restaurant options, just as there are plenty of other options for our customers. This is why every interaction is important, starting from the very first contact point.

How do you make sure every exchange with your customer is one that will keep them coming back? It boils down to two things:

• Training.This is how you create brand consistency, through creating an environment where all team members understand what you are trying to achieve and convey as a company. They need the skills to be able to create an exceptional experience for your customers every time, and each person on your team needs to be communicating the same message.

• Leadership.This is where accountability and follow-up come into play. Do ride-alongs to make sure the training is being executed effectively in the field. Listen to calls your CSRs are taking. This will reveal how your brand is being delivered and if your customers are being treated in a way that will make them want to remain loyal to your company.

Now that you know what it takes to increase your customer retention rate, really focus on it and make sure to track your results. Don’t let your competitors have your customers. Instead, create a service experience so great they won’t even consider using another company; they are yourcustomers.