Customer relationships are everything. It goes without saying that selling more to your existing customers is far more profitable and considerably simpler than finding and acquiring new customers. This is particularly true in 2022 with rising customer acquisition costs across all ad networks.

With business growth very much in focus in a challenging economic environment, any advantage a business can gain to build strong customer relations, drive higher customer retention rates and gain repeat business puts it in a more favourable position than its competitors.

We’ve all seen examples of great customer service and great experience plastered across social media platforms, which adds to an overall improvement in brand reputation and inevitably drives word of mouth business to attract future customers.

At the heart of creating a great experience for your customers is building a strong customer relationship to retain customers and improve customer success.

The secret to building strong customer relationships

Building strong customer relationships and enhancing customer loyalty starts with understanding who your customer is and what they need.

Everyone knows a great relationship – in whatever context – is about mutual understanding. The better you understand each other, the better the expectations of the relationship. From this flows better communication and ultimately the greater the chance of positive long term relationships.

Good relationships are not one-sided. They are a mutually beneficial relationship and the same needs to be borne in mind when thinking about customers. Sure, it’s a business relationship but it pays to think more than transactional.

For customers, they want a problem solved or a want delivered with a great customer experience; for a brand, you want to bring on a perfect customer to whom you can offer a great customer experience, develop a great customer relationship, and ultimately increase customer lifetime value by giving them what they need or want.

This process isn’t just for big brands. Every organisation from small business owners to large corporations can build killer customer relationships and promote positive relationships with their customers. In fact, if you’re a small business, getting better at wow-ing your customers than bigger, more established brands is your route to lower-cost customer acquisition and building customer relationships. Develop this as a key focus in your business and you gain the advantage.

Step 1 – You need intel so build your Customer Profile

The more you know about your customer, the better your marketing and messaging will be and the greater your chances of improved customer satisfaction and building strong customer relationships.

A profile – or avatar or persona – is the must-have of marketing. If you don’t know exactly who you are targeting and what messaging they are likely to respond to, you simply won’t get the expected return on marketing investment.

Every business or brand needs a clear customer profile

Every business and every brand not only needs to have a clear, identifiable customer that everyone in the business is aware of, but it also needs to build into its processes and systems a way of gaining constant customer feedback to inform the profile.

The process of understanding your target customer is never complete. You should look to gain feedback at every stage of the customer journey and feed this back into your understanding of your customer. This will make your insights richer and more actionable as you can really dial into their wants, desires, needs and challenges.

Step 2 – Nurturing customer loyalty by focusing on existing customers

Too many businesses and brands love the sexiness of getting new customers. Of course, it’s always going to be important to drive new business but when it comes to building customer loyalty, it’s time to put your focus back on existing customers.

Quite simply, if you work to build great customer satisfaction with your current customers you will benefit in terms of more referrals, more positive reviews and greater customer loyalty (in other words, customers buy more from you, more often).

In all likelihood, your customer avatar or persona you developed in Step 1 is likely to have been driven by your existing customer base, so it makes sense to keep cultivating the relationship with your perfect buyer.

There are other ways to focus on developing customer loyalty to your brand including:

  • Creating an online community – either to bring together customers in one place to improve support and develop connections between them to help foster ideas and discussion. This is one area where you can build additional value for your customers while building good customer relationships.

  • Launching a loyalty program – rewarding your customers for coming back time and again can strengthen customer relationships, increase lifetime value and give your brand a point of differentiation. Loyalty initiatives are proven at increasing customer retention rates for relatively low cost.

  • Regularly invite customer feedback – getting your customers to regularly provide feedback in a meaningful way is a good way to improve customer relationships as they feel heard and ultimately valued. See Step 5 for more on this point.

This is all about focus. Dedicated time, effort and focus to taking the steps to build customer relationships beyond the transaction and work to understand how every interaction with your customer has an impact on your future revenue.

Step 3 – Focus on customer relationship management

Customer relationship management (CRM) is key to maintaining and improving customer retention rates and ultimately increasing customer lifetime value.

Customer relationship management is the process by which a business manages all its interactions with customers. Essentially, there are two types of interactions:

  1. Interactions that improve your customer’s experience with your brand

  2. Interactions that lessen your customer’s opinion of your brand

The aim is to ensure every interaction falls into the first type. The truth is that regardless of whether you are managing your customer experience through customer relationship management, your customers are already coming to their own conclusions about your brand based on their experience.

You’re either managing those interactions and their experience – or you’re not.

Using marketing automation in conjunction with your CRM software allows you to guarantee a seamless and consistent customer experience that leads to better customer relations and higher customer satisfaction rates.

Building better relationships with customers requires an understanding not only of who they are but how they behave, think and feel as they interact with your business or brand.

Cultivating good customer relationships is more than just CRM software. It’s about creating systems and processes that align with what your customer is trying to do and building in elements around potential touchpoints that improve their experience, lift your brand and make the client or customer feel valued.

However, once you have these processes and systems developed applying these through your chosen CRM software allows you to automate tasks and delivery of various elements to guarantee a consistent experience. For example, certain behaviours along the customer journey may trigger email automations designed to give customers additional information, training or support they need to complete a task before they ever need to ask for help.

Step 4 – Understanding the customer journey

Once you understand the importance of customer relationship management, the question turns to understand how your customer interacts with the business. You may already have some idea as you most likely tracked them as a lead to the point of purchase and experienced how they moved through the support process if they ever had any issues.

But there will be gaps and filling in these gaps is vital to maintaining customer relationships that support your brand.

The starting point is building a customer journey map to fully understand the customer’s journey. This tracks every experience a customer has from the initial purchase, all potential customer interactions until the point of purchase and beyond to become loyal customers.

Create a customer journey map to build great customer relationshipsh

By tracking this in detail, it is possible to begin to understand customer expectations at every step of the journey in line with each customer interaction. By understanding both what customers expect, what they want to do and how they may feel at every step, you can be proactive about meeting customer needs and issues before they arise.

This includes actions like keeping customers notified through the journey to reduce uncertainty and leave the customer feeling in control, setting expectations about their experience early on to avoid creating dissatisfied customers and providing support at the right times to reduce customer requests and customer support enquiries.

The primary benefit of creating a more consistent customer experience is to shift good customer relations into great customer relations and create positive customer experiences that organically drive new business.

Your best customers will come from referrals from existing clients and so anything that delivers higher customer satisfaction inevitably drives positive social media and word of mouth referrals and recommendations.

Step 5 – Using customer feedback to build strong customer relationships

It’s possible to create a virtuous loop by using the existing relationships with customers to better understand customer’s preferences

Although you can use technology such as online surveys and quizzes to automate feedback, our advice is to go old-school and have real conversations with current customers.

This doesn’t have to be anything more complicated than calling an existing customer and asking them to explain their experience, what they need help with and what they need to improve how they achieve their aims.

It’s really important to use a neutral interviewing style to ensure there is no bias in the questions presented so they give their complete opinion and to employ active listening to pick up not only what they are saying but to read between the lines.

Not only does this exercise give you valuable insight around customer service expectations, but it also is a great way of building customer relationships even further and turning customers into loyal customers. People like to be heard and know you’re looking out for them. You can’t help be assured when you know someone is interested in helping improve your experience.

Customer feedback should be a key part of your customer retention strategy and it will guide your marketing messages when it comes to attracting and nurturing new customers.