Even though businesses are reopening and states’ stay-at-home orders are being lifted, we’re still in a far more challenging business climate than before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many consumers and businesses are feeling financial strain, making them reluctant to spend money.


Instead of trying to attract new customers, many business owners are focused on bringing their past customers back. So, the question becomes, how do you keep customers loyal in this tough environment?


Some good news on that front: Many consumers are likely to stick with the companies they’ve done business with before. “People who are recovering from a crisis prefer the status quo,” says Steven Rapier, assistant faculty of Marketing at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School. “They’re less inclined to take risks [on companies they are unfamiliar with].”


That doesn’t mean businesses should take their past customers for granted. Here are four ways companies can retain customers right now:

1. Keep in touch—and offer more personalized attention

A business slowdown is an opportunity to spend more time talking with your existing customers about their individual needs. If during busier times you only had time for a quick email check-in, now you can offer clients a phone call or (eventually) an in-person meeting. “People are longing to engage with other people.” Rapier says.


2. Maximize your email list

Work to build and better communicate with your email list—as those are people who signed up because they wanted communication from you, says Alec Beglarian, founder of Engage.guru, an email marketing consultancy. “This is a great time to leverage [your email list] as much as possible and rely on customers who already trust and love your business,” he says.


Any email a business sends should be authentic and stick to topics the business knows best, Beglarian says. It could contain new offers or timely business information, but more importantly, it should remind customers and prospects that you’re there for them. “Every email you send to a customer, even transactional emails like order confirmations, is an opportunity to speak directly to your customer,” he adds.


3. Use marketing automation and other automated task tools

Marketing automation tools let you synthesize data from your payment processor, newsletter platform, transactional email platform and other applications to coordinate marketing efforts. James Parsons, CEO of Content Powered, a Ventura, California-based business blogging service, says he likes to use the automated workflow tool Zapier to keep in touch with old customers.


“For example, you can set up a ‘Zap’ that connects to your payment processor and finds subscriptions that were cancelled within the past three to four months,” Parsons says. “Then, on a certain day, you can have it send them a personalized email offering them a discount or some freebies to come back on board.”


If they don’t respond after a week, Parsons says, you can even connect to your customer relationship management software (CRM) to find their billing address and then use a service like Lob to mail them a handwritten postcard in the mail.


Marketing automation tools help businesses manage customer retention efforts that otherwise would have required weeks of manual labor, he adds.


4. Offer more interaction options and digital services

Many customers are still practicing “social distancing” and trying to limit in-person interaction. So businesses should consider how to give customers other ways to interact, whether that’s by phone or video calls, says Bruce Hogan, chief executive of SoftwarePundit, a research firm that helps companies choose software.


Moreover, customers may appreciate the availability of other ways to limit contact and conduct business digitally, such as through e-signature tools that make it easy for them to sign documents over the internet.


Even as your customers start feeling more comfortable with in-person contact, investing in digital communication tools will remain important—as reliance on them isn’t likely to go away post-pandemic.

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