You invest resources and work hard to gain each new customer, but the investment and work doesn’t end there. To maintain customer loyalty, you must prove over and over again that your company is worthy of your customers’ business. If you don’t, a competitor could come in and take your place. Therefore, you need to build and maintain strong customer relationships. Because engineers and other technical professionals spend a lot of time online for work, we’ve developed a list of online tactics that can help you achieve this goal. Your most valuable assets—your customers—are worth the attention.

  • Create customer-only e-mail communications. Consider an e-newsletter that’s only for current customers, filled with topics of interest to them. If possible and relevant, segment your customers into groups based on the type of products or services they use, then design specific communications targeted to those groups. Personalize the e-mails by using the customer’s name in the subject line and greeting. 
     
  • Give customers the first look at new products. Invite customers to webinars or webcasts where executives or product managers will offer the first look at new products. This will help customers feel they are “insiders” with access to exclusive information. Be sure to record the webinar for customers who can’t make the live event to view at a later time. It’s another way of showing you’re tuned into their needs. 
     
  • Create a private online discussion forum. An online forum is a great place for customers to interact with each other and with your team. They can ask questions and share best practices. To build a community, try hosting events on the forum. For example, one day a week a product manager could be online to answer questions. Or conduct a weekly online poll.
     
  • Use online chat for support. Supplement phone and e-mail customer or technical support with live chat on your Web site. Many customer questions can be answered quickly through chat and you can offer quick links to relevant areas of your Web site. If the issue is more involved you can use online chat to triage the problem and route the customer the right resource for assistance. 
     
  • Solicit customer feedback online. Listening to customers is the only way to find out what they are thinking. One good way to get feedback is to write a blog and monitor the comments you get from customers. You can also conduct online surveys to better understand the wants, needs, and satisfaction levels of your customers. There are many free or inexpensive online survey tools you can use:
           www.surveymonkey.com
           www.zoomerang.com
           www.questionpro.com
     
  • Establish online loyalty programs. Many businesses use loyalty programs where customers can earn rewards such as product discounts, extended warranties, free support, or gifts. Repeat purchases should be rewarded, but you can go beyond this and sprinkle in fun contests and quizzes about your products which allow customers to accumulate and track points that can be redeemed. Loyalty programs keep customers coming back to you.
     
  • Maintain your Web site. The number one place customers go for information is your Web site. Make sure it is easy to navigate and complete with updated information about products, services, support and more. Be sure to publish and post technical articles, white papers, videos and other educational content that helps your customers do their jobs better. Again, this keeps customers coming back for more. 
     
  • Use social media to engage customers in conversations. Social media is a great place to post links to educational resources and to monitor what your customers may be thinking through their comments. Accept the fact that not all comments will be positive and avoid getting into any arguments online. Use Facebook and Twitter to regularly post updates about your company and industry to your followers. If customers follow you on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook, do the same in return for their company. 
     
  • Maintain a strong market presence. Your customers want to do business with a winning company and a strong brand. Therefore, maintain a strong online presence to keep your brand visible to your customers and the overall market. Your presence on industry Web sites, in online directories, in third-party e-newsletters, and at online events all demonstrate that your company is known and respected, and helps customers feel confident in their choice to do business with you.

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