When it comes to marketing, the most powerful tool any business has is a happy customer — or, even better, an army of happy customers — advocating on its behalf. Maybe they’re a customer turned affiliate partner who recommends your products for a cut of the profits. Maybe they’re a superfan who was so thrilled with their experience that they can’t help but tell people about it. Either way, the most profitable customer relationships aren’t merely with customers that buy from you. They’re the partnerships with clients that stick around for the long haul and share their experiences with others. However, if you want someone to share how awesome your business is – and buy from you again and again – learning to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction in your business is the first step.
Here, we’re going to cover 25 ways to do this, whether you’re a new business owner, an experienced salesperson, or an entrepreneur. I’ll also explain the importance of good customer experiences, the dangers of bad ones, and the ROI of exceptional customer service, so you can learn from others’ mistakes. That way, the customers you work so hard to attract will be more likely to make a purchase. Plus, the ones who’ve already purchased will be more likely to sing your praises. Win, win! 🎉
Be clear on your top core values.
Be clear about what your company stands for and how you conduct your business. Ask yourself, “How do I approach challenges or problems?” and “How do I want my customers or social audience to feel when they interact with my brand?” The answers to these questions and your other core values, as a business owner, are part of what attracts new customers to your brand and should be clear in every public aspect of your company. Even if another business sells a product or offers a service similar to yours, people that identify with your values will automatically consider you more seriously, as they can relate to you and appreciate why you do what you do.
Always be honest and transparent.
Strive to be as open with your customers as possible. For many companies, “honesty” is one of their core values, but they don’t really live that value all the time. A better rule of thumb is to be transparent no matter what. If you’re a team of five, for example, don’t pretend you’re a team of fifty when handling customer service inquiries. If you don’t know the answer to a customer question, don’t try and muddle your way through it. Just ask for help! Ultimately, not being transparent almost always leads to disappointment and an unhappy, insulted customer. If you’re looking to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction in your business, that’s the opposite of what you want.
Keep to your word.
Remember to “walk the walk” instead of just “talking the talk.” Part of building solid relationships with your customers is showing them they can trust you, that you’re reliable in the best and the worst of times. If you promise replies to customer inquiries within 24 hours, for instance, try hard to meet that deadline every time. Conversely, if you can’t meet a deadline or if an unforeseen problem disrupts your workflow, communicate that to your customers as quickly as possible. Whether you’re solving a problem or answering a question, they should know that you mean what you say, always, and you wouldn’t try to “pull the wool over their eyes” to make yourself look better.
Underpromise and overdeliver.
Aim for exceptional results every time. It’s easy for people to remember a bad experience, but if you want them to remember a good experience, you can’t just be “good.” You have to be super in every aspect of your brand. So, next time you reach out to someone, opt for a personalized message instead of a boilerplate email template. Next time a regular customer makes a purchase, thank them with a handwritten card, a bouquet of flowers, a special discount – whatever’s appropriate for your business and your budget. The goal is simply to exceed the customer’s expectations as often as possible.
Build your brand’s authority in your industry.
If you want to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction, one easy way to do so is by showing you know what you’re talking about. If you approach your phone company, your landlord, or even a friend or family member with a question or concern, the last thing you want to hear is a clearly fictional answer or a mumbled, “Well, I don’t know!”. With your own customers, the same frustration exists. To avoid making them feel that way, you have to be an expert. This means sharing content in your field (blogs, podcast episodes, etc.), making sure your employees are knowledgeable and well-trained, and sharing your expertise with other content creators in your industry. That way, they trust that you know what you’re doing and – more importantly – that they can count on you for consistently great experiences.
Promote your brand in a variety of ways.
Similarly to building your reputation, part of creating a loyal customer base means promoting your brand where your potential customers are already active. Nowadays, there are countless marketing avenues for this including social media promotions, digital advertising, and video or blog content creation in addition to traditional print advertising. Sure, marketing across one of these channels will attract some new customers. But, marketing across a variety of them increases that attention exponentially. It also makes it convenient for existing customers to find and interact with your brand. This keeps your company top of mind in their daily life and reinforces your trustworthiness and approachability.
Make exceptional customer service part of your brand.
If you want your brand to stand out, your customer service efforts have to stand out, too. From your competitors’ standpoint, everything about your brand is copyable. From your fonts and colors to the things you sell, if they want to rip off of something your company did well, they can. However, what they can’t mimic – or fake – is exceptional customer service, making it imperative that you bake it right into your brand and your company culture. Plus, as an added bonus, 77% of customers say they would recommend a brand to a friend after a single positive experience. So, if you’re providing positive experiences as a matter of policy, the number of superfans in your business is only going to increase.
Go above and beyond to make customers feel welcome.
One of the most impactful ways to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction is to review how you welcome customers. Up to 70% of the average customer’s journey is based on how they feel they’re being treated, so their initial impression of your brand can have a huge impact on their willingness to make a purchase. Looking at your own business, is your contact information easily accessible in case customers have questions or concerns? For brick-and-mortar business owners, do they feel comfortable in your store? Are you and your employees friendly and approachable? Ideally, customers should be able to say “yes” to each of these questions and feel welcome to come to you with questions or concerns, even if they haven’t yet purchased anything.
Treat customers the way they want to be treated.
Each customer is unique, and, consequently, working to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction will vary from person to person. Rather than the standard Golden Rule – ”Treat others the way you want to be treated” – a better rule of thumb is the Platinum Rule, or “Treat others the way they want to be treated”. In other words, don’t just assume that you know what your customers want. Instead, ask them what they’re looking for, what they’re happy about, and what you could be doing better. To hear Gene Buckley tell it: “Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work, and serve the customer!”
Ask for – and abide by – their communication preferences.
Speaking of asking customers what they want, don’t forget to ask how you can most easily communicate with them. According to Forrester, 54% of customers used email for customer service in 2018, making it the most used digital channel for customer service. However, for many customers, other platforms may be more convenient. Think text messages, social media accounts, or phone calls instead. Again, to create loyal and satisfied customers, your job is to ask what they prefer, then act accordingly. The more respectful you are and the more convenient their experience, the more likely they are to purchase again.
Streamline communication between your customers and your team.
Technology has vastly changed customer service in recent years. For example, many companies today offer self-service tools or even automated bots to answer basic questions in seconds. That said, there will inevitably be times that your customers need a human being, rather than a machine, to address their concerns. In these cases, if you want to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction in your business, you have to make that communication as easy as possible. To do this, make sure your team’s contact information is clearly listed on your website (and social profiles, if applicable). Additionally, once a customer reaches out, aim for a quick reply. Even if you have to ask clarifying questions before you solve their problem, being able to reach you and hear back from you quickly is guaranteed to make them feel heard and valued, both of which will make them stick around longer.
Customize your communication with customers.
When communicating with customers, besides being fast, it’s also important to be personal. If you’re like me, you’ve received emails that started with “Dear sir/ma’am” and never once mentioned your name. You’ve also immediately deleted these emails. After all, if they couldn’t take the time to personalize a simple email, it’s hard to believe they’ll see you as more than a number or a sale, right? The same goes for your customers. Whether they’re a first-time buyer or a lifelong superfan, if you want their support, you have to recognize them in return. Speaking from experience, even something as small as using their name or referencing a past conversation can make a difference.
Treat your existing customers as well as new ones.
One of the most common mistakes business owners make is treating new customers better than their existing customers. A common example appears in advertising, where many firms invest tons of time and energy into pitching a client, after which they pass them off to another department completely. When this happens, the customer feels that they’re not worth the original sales rep’s time and their whole project slows down, as a new set of employees now have to familiarize themselves with it. To avoid a similar situation in your own business – and improve customer loyalty and satisfaction in the process – balance your customer service efforts between new and existing customers. Not only will you retain more of them. You’ll also save money in the long run, considering it’s 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one you already have.
Treat your employees even better than you treat your customers.
Don’t forget to take care of your employees. Especially with rude or abusive customers, your employees can only treat customers as well as you treat them. If you promise quick and honest communication for customers, provide the same for your team. If you expect employees to be patient, empathetic, and knowledgeable during customer conversations, you have to lead by example. Like a personal relationship, you wouldn’t spend time with a friend or family member if they didn’t have your back. Likewise, your employees will only stay as long as they know you value their contribution to the business and their role in creating happy customers.
Train every team member to provide exceptional service.
When empowering your employees to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction, it’s also crucial that you ensure everyone is held to the same standard of customer service. From the customer’s standpoint, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one negative one, meaning one employee’s mistake can impact the whole business. Additionally, thanks to mobile phones and social media, if a team member provides a negative experience, it takes less than a minute to share it with a global audience. With that in mind, each of your employees should have the same knowledge of your industry, your products and services, and company policy. That way, no matter who a customer interacts with, they’re guaranteed a positive experience.
Break your own rules when necessary.
Having a general set of customer service policies in place is a good idea – don’t get me wrong! But, there will always be exceptions, and sometimes, working to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction means breaking the rules. For example, if a customer misses the deadline to return something because they were in the hospital, telling them, “Well, you missed the deadline, so I can’t help you” doesn’t solve the problem. It makes the entire situation worse and basically erases any chance that customer will return. In cases like these, remember that policies are important, but so is compassion. Sometimes, the best way to serve your customers is to be flexible and understanding.
Talk with your customers, no matter what your job title is.
Regardless of your role, every member of a business benefits from customer interaction. Even if you’re the CEO and don’t talk to customers on a daily basis, make time to do so regularly. Maybe it’s through “town hall” style customer support sessions. Maybe it’s through appearances on company content channels, such as your podcast. However you choose to connect, interacting with customers shows them you value their support and their input. This makes them more inclined to continue purchasing from you. Plus, consistent interaction with customers can give you insights into their experience, allowing you to improve your sales processes or products and boost sales in the long run.
Be positive, even with unhappy customers.
It sounds trite, but one of the best-proven ways to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction is simply to stay positive. We’ve all spoken with employees or business owners that either didn’t seem to care or were outright unpleasant, both of which are difficult feelings to forget. Fortunately, the reverse is also true, and most customers will remember a positive experience. In fact, even if they originally came forward with a concern or problem, 70% of unhappy customers whose problems are resolved are willing to shop with a business again. Your job is to see their problem as an opportunity and approach it with optimism.
Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes.
In any business, mistakes are guaranteed to happen once and awhile, causing customers to be unhappy. When this happens, don’t get defensive about what went wrong or – even worse – try to hide it from your customers. Instead, take responsibility and explain how you’re going to make things right. Even if the problem seems relatively small, consistently owning up to your failures shows your patrons that you don’t want them to settle for a mediocre product, service, or experience. You want them to know you appreciate their support and will work hard to make sure they’re getting what they pay for.
Ask customers for feedback throughout the sales cycle.
Another way to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction is to ask for their feedback. Many salespeople and business owners make the mistake of asking for feedback only a single time. Others welcome feedback but don’t use it, resulting in the fact that 50% of customers believe their feedback doesn’t matter. In your business, strive to be the exception to that statistic and ask for feedback throughout your sales process. Then, relay that information to your team, so you can turn those words into actions.
Build a testimonial request into your sales process.
When adjusting your sales process, don’t forget to ask for testimonials. According to Pew Research Center, 38% of customers never leave reviews on products and services but up to 68% will if you ask them to. In other words, your company’s superfans are already willing to share how awesome your products and services are. They’re just waiting for you to ask! My advice is to add “Ask for a testimonial” into your sales process. That way, you never forget and your customers know that you value their opinion. Plus, 93% of consumers incorporate online reviews in their purchasing decisions. So, even if only a percentage of your customers are willing to review your product, the return can be huge.
Make the most of technology.
Regardless of the size of your team or what you sell, one sure way to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction in your business is to integrate relevant technology. Remember the last time you were overwhelmed with support questions? How about answering emails with the same frequently asked questions? For simple tasks like these, using customer service apps – like chatbots, article directories, etc. will not only speed up the process for your team. It can also make it easier for customers to find answers without having to wait for a reply. Additionally, according to a study by American Express, more than 60% of US consumers prefer an automated self-service, such as a website or mobile app, for simple customer service tasks. With that in mind, if you can use technology in your customer support efforts, by all means, go for it!
Provide additional value for free.
On top of your standard products and services, it never hurts to provide your customers with extra value. If you sell software, for example, throw in a free onboarding session for new customers or a free PDF guide. If you’re a consulting company, offer an extra free “discovery session” so they have ample time to get to know you before signing a consulting contract. By providing value on top of what customers pay for, you demonstrate you’re not just “in it for the money”. You want them to be successful and will do whatever you can to help make that happen. Plus, for the customer, getting bonus value is always a nice surprise!
Speaking of surprises, another way to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction to be spontaneously appreciative. I’m not saying you should provide spontaneous customer service – that should always be consistent. I’m talking about taking the time to add a personal touch, as a thank you to your customers. One of my favorite examples of this is the pet supply brand Chewy, who not only sends holiday cards to their customers’ pets each year but also sends flowers when a customer loses one of their furry friends. As a company, Chewy wants their customers to stick around and show it by going above and beyond to highlight those customers’ unique experiences, such as their pets’ names, ages, birthdays, etc. Likewise, spontaneous and genuine “thank you”s to your own clients can mean a great deal, not to mention help you stand out as a company that truly cares for their patrons.
Reward customers for their loyalty.
Finally, if you want to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction in your business, you have to show that you care. Spontaneous gift-giving and “thank you”s are great. But the real key is to show appreciation all the time, especially considering the #1 reason customers switch brands is feeling unappreciated. My advice? Institute a loyalty program, if you haven’t already. Maybe it’s a punch card for a free product or a discount once they spend a certain amount of money. Either way, rewarding customers for their loyalty may cost you a little time and energy, but the love – and monetary return – you’ll see from your customers is sure to make up for it.
Hopefully, these 25 tips and tricks gave you some insight into the tried-and-true ways you can improve loyalty and happiness among your customers. To learn more, check out my free video course for making customers feel welcomed, appreciated, validated, and engaged or subscribe to my newsletter! I’ll metaphorically leave the light on for ya. 🙂