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This is the final installment in the series,  “Email: A View From Above”. We’ve been working to prove that email, as a communication channel, is not entirely based on spam or marketing blasts…

Once you’ve figured out how to handle customer email and taken steps toward improving your email customer service, it’s time to think about how you can use email to retain existing customers.

First, it’s important to remember that retaining existing customers is just as important, if not more so, as attracting new ones. And in tough economic times, it becomes vital to work hard at keeping all of your customers happy.

flickr user Beer_Coaster

flickr user Beer_Coaster

Happy customers spend more of their money with you, long term. Happy customers bring in more customers. Happy customers can provide you with marketing and promotion that you just couldn’t buy.

One way to build lifelong customers is to exceed their expectations. A great way to do this is to be prompt. When you manage your email well, it’s not difficult to see a customer’s email come in and reply to it quickly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replied to a customer’s email within minutes and received incredible feedback. Responses tend to go something like this:

  • You answered my email in five minutes!
  • My problem is solved and I didn’t have to wait all day!
  • I didn’t think this kind of customer service existed anymore!

Tracking a customer over time

Sometimes a customer asks a question that can’t immediately be answered. You do what you can at the time, but you know that in a few days/weeks/even months, there will be more information for that customer. Tracking this kind of inquiry, and being equipped to contact and update a customer after their initial inquiry lets the customer know that they are top of mind, and that you are serious about their business.

Having a good paper (or virtual) trail of your customer contact is also invaluable. The ability to look back through a history of conversations can save you time and give you insight into the kind of customer you’re assisting. This not only eliminates unnecessary back and forth (what product were they asking about last time? how did your last communication end?), but it provides the customer with a sense of security. You know who they are and what’s come before. You’re equipped to help them again.

And here’s how it works

A great example of this happened to me recently. A customer called with a pressing technical support question. She mentioned that she had sent an email but hadn’t received a reply. Not only was I able to look at the Technical Support inbox (thanks to Email Center Pro)  but I could see that my coworker, Steve, was in the process of responding to her most recent email. And because I could see her entire email exchange with Steve, I knew there was nothing I could do to get her answer any faster (because it was not my area of expertise), but that Steve was well on his way to handling it. For this customer, just hearing the words “Steve is responding to your email right now” brought her voice down to a reasonable octave and obviously set her mind at ease.

The golden nugget

The trick to retaining customers is simple — treat them like they matter as much as potential customer. Because they do.

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