The appeal to businesses of the ease of automated email systems or computerized phone answering systems is powerful. Sending electronic PDF newsletters instead of printed hardcopies is far cheaper. Ebooks and electronic fulfillment of information products is also very popular and cost-effective.
The problem is it is also very impersonal. For those businesses using this type of technology, it costs them a lot more than they realize. In fact, in many cases, the apparent cost savings is chump change compared to the loss in revenue from losing clients due to lack of personal relationships.
Here’s a thought. How about answering the phone with an actual person? How about shipping an actual book with printed pages when you sell an information product? What about mailing a handwritten thank you note instead of an automated email that no one reads? Maybe you should mail a printed newsletter. If you sell a software product, how about sending a box of support materials instead of simply pushing the client to a download page and expecting them to read everything online?
Why? Because people are overwhelmed with electronic media and as a result, they tend to ignore it. It is rare to receive old-fashioned hardcopies of things so when you do it, it stands out.
Plus, it is proven that people still prefer the printed page and things that they can touch and feel over electronic products. Over 90% of people still go to their mailbox and sort through their mail. Compare that to less than 1% email open rate.
The bottom line is very basic. If you want to improve customer retention, and reduce refund rates, deliver physical products as often as possible. Stay in touch with your clients using regular newsletters or other physical mailings that offer them value. If you are a software company, deliver a box of something with every order. Send handwritten thank you notes. Send birthday, anniversary, thanksgiving and holiday cards. Send thank you gifts. Stay in touch with your clients at least once a month with some sort of physical product and watch your retention rates and net profits go up.
Don’t be a pest, but a welcome guest. That means when you do correspond, try to give a lot more than you expect to receive. Don’t make every correspondence one where you are asking for something.
As an example, in our business, we send a monthly printed newsletter to every client, (you are reading it now), plus an additional quarterly mailing where we try to send some sort of gift. At Thanksgiving, we send personalized notepads for each client, plus a calendar. We recently implemented a program where all new clients receive a special “shock and awe” package as a thank you for their first order. Our goal is to make the experience they have with us better, and more personal than any they have ever gotten with any other vendor. As a result, we have seen our client retention rates rise dramatically.