Getting customers can be hard. You know what’s even harder? Retaining them.

The process of acquiring — and improving — the loyalty of your customers is of the utmost importance to the success of any tree care company, especially companies in competitive markets. If you don’t work at keeping them, all those customers you worked so hard to get could disappear before you even realize.

With that in mind, we found an informative article in Entrepreneur magazine that points out several ways to better your company’s customer loyalty. We picked out some sections of the article and spun them to make them applicable for tree care:

Provide excellent customer service. As the article points out, this sounds obvious, right? But it’s incredibly crucial. Exceptional customer service is what creates lifelong customers and separates your company from your competitors. Whether it’s keeping appointment times, providing fair estimates, proper cleanup after a job or taking the time to explain to the customer what the problem with their tree is, customer service is what brings in business. Conversely, bad customer service can ruin a business’ reputation, therefore ruining a business. As Entrepreneur explains, “listen to customers and address their concerns in a timely manner. Make it easy for customers to get in touch with you. Clearly display an email address, phone number and social media account. You have to ‘wow’ them by going above and beyond.”

Ask for a review. Entrepreneur says customer reviews (on platforms such as Facebook, Google or Yelp) are more important than ever. The article cites research that says “88 percent have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business,” and “72 percent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.” Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews of your company’s work — as long as you’re doing good work!

Offer incentives. This can be as simple as offering a first-time customer a discount on repeat jobs. For example, say you do a tree removal for a new customer. While doing the job, you see another tree on the property that’s in need of removal. Let the customer know – after the original job is done – that you’ll take care of the other tree, but at a discounted price. This will go a long way to ensure you’re the first call when they’re ready to have the job done (and for future jobs as well).

Get personal. One of our columnists, Vic Foerster, talked about this in a recent column: Spend Time Talking With Clients This Winter. Vic uses dormant and slow winter months to get to know some of his better customers on a personal level. He might drop by their home or office with some donuts. Or he might ask a customer out for coffee to find out what’s new and exciting in their lives. Also, according to Entrepreneur, “studies have proven that personalized emails have a transaction rate six times higher than impersonal emails. This could be addressing them by name, sending them a birthday greeting or offering a coupon on the anniversary of when they became a customer.” Customers appreciate this because it can help create an emotional bond. It makes them feel special.

Don’t neglect existing customers. Yes, finding those crucial and necessary new customers is obviously important. But, as Entrepreneur points out, it’s “incredibly easy to forget your existing customers when you’re busy trying to reach new customers. To avoid frustrating your loyal customers, make sure that your… service doesn’t diminish over time.” Take time to follow up with the customer whose trees you pruned last summer. Call up the customer who purchased firewood from you last winter – “Hello, Mr. Smith. I recall you purchased some firewood from us last year. We’ve got some nice, seasoned wood ready to go. Would you like me to deliver some to you before this big snowstorm is expected to come?”

Be reliable. Who doesn’t rank reliability at the top of traits you look for in companies you deal with? This is common sense. As Entrepreneur explains, “earn a reputation for being consistent and dependable. This means if you promise a product to be delivered within 48 hours after the purchase, then make sure delivery occurs within that time frame. If you promise 24/7 customer support, then make sure that is a promise that you can keep.”