Whether you’re an independent developer with a single app or the head of a large tech firm with a sizable portfolio of products, you know that one of the most difficult aspects of the job is retaining customers, especially if those customers are other tech pros.
That’s because tech pros at all kinds of companies are bombarded all day by offers for new kinds of software, hardware, and services. Managers and administrators with the power of the corporate purse are inundated with calls by sales reps pitching them on a better product—or at least a much better deal on an inferior one.
Fortunately, there are clear ways to build effective brand loyalty, according to a new study by Spiceworks, which surveyed some 535 tech pros in the United States and the U.K. who handle purchasing at their various companies. At the top of the list: great customer support, which 97 percent of respondents cited as an important factor in driving brand loyalty; that was followed by consistently fair pricing (96 percent), a history of reliable products and services (96 percent), and access to the vendor’s technical experts (91 percent).
What doesn’t work? Creative marketing efforts (21 percent), regular in-person touchpoints (34 percent), and personal relationships with company representatives (59 percent). In other words, the very techniques that many vendors use to gain and retain customers, including funky ads and incessant sales-rep calls, may actually prove counterproductive in the long run.
For tech pros who remain diligent about maintaining the reliability of their products, this is good news; although it might seem sometimes that customers aren’t paying attention to effective UX, stable functionality, and frequent updates, it’s clear that those things matter over the long term. In a similar vein, it’s important not to skimp on customer service, no matter what your company’s size.
And yes, customer service can be expensive and time-consuming. If you’re a smaller firm (or even an independent developer), consider filling your website and social-media profiles with links to extensive documentation and FAQs; also make sure your contact info is prominent. You don’t need a boiler room full of tech-support personnel in order to maintain a good relationship with your core customers, but you do need to demonstrate a high degree of responsiveness. (Unfortunately, many firms tend to forget that part in favor of pushing out a product, setting up some sort of customer-service automation, and then leaving customers to handle issues on their own.)
Fair pricing is a big deal, too. Giving away a product at the outset is often a good way to quickly build a customer base, but it can become a roadblock on the way to real revenue; customers don’t like it when their free product suddenly costs a lot of money. Price things with your operating costs in mind, and keep an eye on your competition — if they suddenly slash their prices, you may be forced to do so, as well.
It’s one thing to have a great service, app, or piece of hardware; but in the end, you need to mind the business basics to build long-lasting customer loyalty. Don’t count on your existing install base to endure unless you make the effort to maintain it.