Let’s look at how technology can be used to keep customers. Of course, your budget will ultimately determine which technologies you can afford but let’s say that money is not a problem. This gives us the latitude to explore the very best tools for retaining your customers.

Customer retention now goes much further than having a smiling face and a snazzy website. Savvy enterprises use many technologies to create genuine customer loyalty to extend one-time purchases into multiple upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Your objective is to excite your customer so much they tell their acquaintances how amazing your company is. This, according to Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, is the definition of a market, “A set of actual or potential customers, for a given set of products or services, who have a common set of needs or wants, and who reference each other when making a buying decision.” The last point infers that the brand loyalty of one customer in a circle of acquaintances will enthusiastically infect the whole circle by a chain reaction. You can derive many things from this, but I suggest the key message is that keeping customers happy will create new customers.

Now we know why we need happy customers, let’s look at the web technologies that help you do this.

1.    Personalization Websites

Visitors use your website to validate your company. Even small companies with well-designed websites can attract big business so no matter what else you do to retain customers, you need to ensure the quality of your website is obvious to your visitors and customers alike.

Personalization websites dynamically change the content as they learn more about you. If you return at a future time they will remember who you are and carry on personalizing. Successive visitors with different interests will each see different web content. Customers landing on a personalized website are more likely to develop an affinity for your brand and products simply because the site feeds their needs better. 

Beyond personalization and a well-designed website, you have a number of other techniques at your disposal to entertain and encapsulate your customers

·        Live chat to provide real-time responses to questions.

·        Online communities so customers can learn about your products and service from other users.

·        Downloads, webinars and training videos.

·        Loyalty programs to encourage visitors to accumulate redemptions and spend more.

·        Gamification, where visitors interact with the website in a game-like manner.

·        Online surveys, to learn about member opinions and encourage interactions.

To create even greater participation, engagement, and loyalty, customers should ideally be able to log into portal pages to access privileged information and special offers.

An excellent web technology platform with all of these features is Sitecore CMS which has purchasing options for SMEs. Note that managing sophisticated websites with frequently changing content may require specialist resources.

Great websites collect data. The next section looks at where you should store customer-specific information, like username, password, real name, contact details, products purchased and so forth.

2.    Customer Relationship Management Systems

When prospects arrive on your website and complete your web form it is important the information is automatically recorded in a system that has the necessary tools to act on the information received. CRM software provides the sales team with a complete view of each customer and the company’s communications with them. It automates processes and lets you schedule reminders to interact with clients at appropriate times. CRMs have powerful report building tools for segmenting like-minded contacts into campaigns.

The CRM can be used as a single source of truth for customer data including login credentials for your web portal. You can even update your CRM with personalization data such as the browsing behavior of each customer after they have visited the website. This quantitative data provides you with a basis to understand the customer’s level of engagement and the focus of their interest. This is powerful information to have on hand for conversations with your customer!

Ideally, your CRM should be cloud-based so there is little or no effort required to administer it and it ensures the data is universally available to your sales team. An example of a best-of-breed CRM is Salesforce which also has a range of options for SMEs.

3.    Social Media Accounts

Once ‘word of mouth’ was how products and services were personally endorsed. Today, social media broadcasts your thoughts to a far greater audience and is uniquely capable of sneaking your brand into the personal lives of your prospects and customers. It is the ultimate tool for customers to rave about your company and brilliant for initiating Geoffrey Moore’s chain reaction. 

Some popular social media websites are Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

4.    Marketing Automation Software

This is where it all comes together. When provided with quality information, automation software is the most powerful technology available to retain customers.

While CRMs let you create campaign lists most don’t provide best-of-breed features to automate communications with your customers. Automation software lets you create the content of email and social media communications, then queue these for dispatch according to a predefined schedule. The software monitors the responses to your published dispatches so you can determine the relative success of your effort.

An example is Pardot which is the B2B Marketing Automation App by Salesforce. SMEs may choose to automate directly from their CRM or use something like HubSpot or free software.

Choosing between technology vendors is always a challenge. There are several products that incorporate the three key technologies; website, CRM and automation software, into a single solution. The other approach is to choose the best-of-breed software in each space then use integrations to transfer the key data between the systems. Either approach is valid; often the decision is made around what existing services are in place.

FuseIT provides an enterprise level integration product (S4S) that connects Sitecore to Salesforce in the manner described above. It is a complex space and we are happy to provide ideas and guidance if you ultimately decide to choose one of these technologies.