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15 key ways to improve customer relationships

Alia Paavola
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The long-term success of any business hinges on its relationship with customers, both new and old. When customer relationships are managed and improved, businesses will see positive outcomes. This includes increased customer lifetime value and higher customer retention.

Customer relationships have a direct link to revenue. Studies show that repeat customers are 50 percent more likely to buy new products and 33 percent more likely to spend more than new customers.

There are many tactics you can use to improve customer relationships. Below we break down 15 key ways.

15 ways to improve customer relationships

1. Demonstrate sincere appreciation

One way to bolster relationships with customers is to show them genuine appreciation. This can include thanking them for choosing your business or showing you care. Those who receive appreciation messages are more likely to feel valued and become repeat customers.

Businesses can send appreciation notes via email, over social media, through text, or a handwritten card in the mail. The important thing to keep in mind is that these notes should be custom and heartfelt.

One example of a company that sends custom appreciation notes to customers is Chewy. The business has a team of artists who turn customers’ pet photos into painted portraits. The portraits are sent to customers for free alongside handwritten appreciation notes.

A handwritten card from Chewy
A handwritten card from Chewy showing customer appreciation.

2. Personalize all interactions with customers

The reality is that customers today want to be seen as individuals. It is no longer enough to treat them kindly. They now demand personalized experiences when interacting with a brand.

A recent study found 71 percent of consumers expect personalized interactions with companies. That same study also found that 76 percent get frustrated when personalization is not occurring.

As a result, one way to improve customer relationships is to personalize online and in-person interactions with them.

One retailer that thrives at personalization is beauty giant Sephora. The company consistently ranks at the top of Sailthru’s Retail Personalization Index. This index analyzes the personalization tactics used by retailers.‍Sephora ensures each customer has a personalized experience with:

  • Highly personalized and perfectly timed emails that encourage customers to restock
  • Custom quizzes that help suggest beauty products based on customers’ needs
  • In-store technology that scans faces to help customers find the right products
  • An app that lets customers virtually try on products like false lashes and lipstick from home
A custom quiz from Sephora
Sephora's quiz that helps customers find recommended skincare products.

While Sephora is a star at personalization, businesses can take a page out of the beauty giant’s playbook. They can do this by offering customers personalized deals, custom pricing quotes, and tailored emails.

3. Acquire customer feedback and act on it

Making sure your clients feel heard is another great way to build stronger customer relationships. Soliciting feedback from your customers and using it shows you value their opinions and want to make their experience better. This helps a customer feel valued and more attached to the business.

There are many ways you can ask for feedback from customers. This includes sending customer satisfaction surveys, online polls, or asking for reviews.

One example of a tech giant that excels at getting and using customer feedback is Apple. Apple collects customer insights about their retail store experience through NPS surveys. Customers who visited an Apple store get an email survey asking them how likely they’d recommend Apple to their friends on a scale of 0 to 10. An Apple store manager is responsible for calling any customer who gives a score of 6 or lower within 24 hours to understand more. The managers then share the feedback with their teams to help improve the customer experience in stores.

In the first year that Apple implemented this follow-up process, it saw a great monetary return. Every hour spent calling those customers generated more than $1,000 in revenue, according to Customergauge.

4. Speak to your customers like they are human

Technologies like artificial intelligence and automation can help businesses get more done efficiently. But, when it comes to building longstanding relationships with customers, remember to speak to them like they are human.

Without this, your business risks being viewed as a company that puts margins over the customer experience. It also could make customers feel like they are burdens or another number.

A recent PwC study found that 64 percent of U.S. customers feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience. Since customer experience is a key factor used to make purchase decisions, it is important to focus on adding a human touch to interactions.One company that incorporates a human-first approach to its customer service is Verishop. This retail startup has human customer service agents on call 24/7 for both phone and email inquiries. Instead of speaking to a bot, a human will respond and make sure all inquiries are resolved.

5. Have two-way conversations 

Two-way conversations help brands and customers connect. Engaging in two-way conversations proves you are listening and shows you understand and care about any concerns on a human level.

Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter enable quick two-way communication. Businesses should use this to their advantage.

One example of a business that excels at responding to customers on Twitter is Whole Foods. The grocer responds to customer concerns, thanks customers, and encourages customers to post more. Here is an example of a two-way tweet interaction with one of its customers:

A two-way Twitter conversation from Whole Foods
Whole Food's two-way conversation on Twitter with a customer.

Another great way to have two-way conversations with customers is with business texting. Texting allows your business to quickly respond to customer questions. Here’s an example below:

A text conversation with a business
An example of a two-way texting conversation between a business and customer.

To learn more about business texting as an option for your business read our article on the ROI of business texting.

6. Be empathetic

Expressing genuine empathy in conversations with customers can help build stronger emotional bonds. Harvard Business Review found that emotional connections directly affect human purchase behavior. In fact, fully connected customers are 52 percent more valuable, on average, than those who are just highly satisfied.

The best way to introduce empathy into your customer conversations is to show that you’re taking their problem or feedback seriously. Some phrases that may help are:

  • “I understand where you are coming from…”
  • “I imagine how frustrating it is when…”
  • “I realize how confusing it must be for you when…”
  • “I’m so sorry to hear that…”

7. Showcase your team

‘Meet the team’ pages or employee spotlight posts on social media are a great way to humanize your business. They can also help earn new clients’ trust and forge stronger relationships with existing customers.

One unique meet the team page is from Humaan, a company that builds digital products like webpages and apps for companies across the globe. The company’s team page stands out because it uses humor to describe each team member's role and GIFs that showcase each of their personalities.

A staff page from Humaan
Humaan's staff page showcases employee personalities.

8. Add value

Creating value for customers can help your brand stand out and keep customers coming back.

A few ways to add value include:

  • Hiring a specialist to help customers find the perfect product for them
  • Giving customers samples of a product to try at home
  • Offering free resources like “how-to” guides or pricing quotes

One example of a company that does this well is ThirdLove, a bra and underwear company. Although ThirdLove is an online retailer, customers are supported throughout the journey to find the perfect bra for them. ThirdLove adds value for customers in several ways. One is a quiz that helps the company better understand their customer’s undergarment pain points and needs. Another is the company's 'fit stylists' who provide customized fit and style recommendations.

9. Reward customers’ loyalty

Treasure loyal customers. They have a level of trust, familiarity, and affinity for a brand that often transcends pricing. According to The White House Office of Consumer Affairs, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase on average.

As a result, one of the best ways to build long-term relationships with customers is to reward repeat purchases. This can be done by setting up a loyalty program

There are several types of loyalty programs businesses can look to implement. One is a point-based system where customers accumulate points with each purchase. Another is a cash-back program that gives customers a percentage of money spent back. A third is a tiered program that offers various levels of rewards to members based on the amount spent.One of the most popular customer loyalty programs in the world is Starbucks Rewards. The program awards customers "stars” with every purchase. After accumulating enough stars, customers can trade them for free drinks or money off drink customizations. The coffee giant’s loyalty program keeps customers actively engaged and coming back.

10. Make transparency part of your DNA

One of the best ways to build healthy relationships with customers is through transparency. Sharing both good and bad news with customers helps build trust and can improve the longevity of the relationship.

A Sprout Social survey found that 86 percent of people crave transparency from businesses more than ever before.

There are many ways to keep transparency front-and-center for a business, but here are a few tips:

  • Be honest about pricing and billing upfront
  • Own your mistakes
  • Keep your website up-to-date
  • Share important updates, like shipping confirmations or delays, with customers
  • Maintain consistent two-way communication

11. Have multiple communication channels

In today’s world, people use a wide range of communication channels to engage with their friends and family. Now, customers want that same luxury when communicating with brands.

Let customers contact your business using the communication method that they prefer. This can help improve their overall perception of the brand.

One best practice is to learn customer preferences and stick to them.

There are several communication channels that businesses should embrace:

  • Email
  • Social media platforms
  • Live chat
  • SMS
  • Phone calls

One communication channel that helps improve relationships with customers is text messaging. This is because it allows for quick two-way communication. Additionally, more customers are increasingly craving this contact method. In fact, 85 percent of smartphone users reported that they prefer mobile messages to emails or calls, according to Soprano Design.

Additionally, business texting is a great way to help your organization improve customer service. Businesses that handle back and forth communications with customers can benefit. This includes if you take orders, answers questions, or solve their problems. Business texting is easier and faster than other modes of communication. Plus, it can be used both internally for team communication and externally for customer communication.

To learn more about business texting as a means to improve customer service, read our blog here.

12. Share free and relevant content

Sharing relevant content can go a long way in building successful and lasting customer relationships. This is because it helps prove you are a subject matter expert.

One way to do this is by providing valuable news and information. Some examples are sharing low-cost recipes, tips to improve operations, or best practices for website design.

Providing this information free of charge helps position you as an industry expert and shows customers you want to help. Plus, it makes it clear that you want to help even when you are not attempting to sell them a product or service.

An example of a company that does this really well is the clothing brand Anthropologie. The company’s blog has a slew of how-to articles. These posts walk customers through things like caring for candles or organizing every room in their house. It also has must-know style trends and cocktail recipes. The blog offers customers helpful information, without pushing products or sales on them.  

13. Train employees effectively

A Microsoft study published in 2020 found that customer service plays a key role in the overall customer experience. Plus, it can be the main differentiator between rival companies. In fact, 90 percent of respondents said customer service is important to a purchase decision and overall loyalty to a company.

A Zendesk study also found that 50 percent of customers will stop doing business with a company after one poor experience.

One key way to ensure top-notch customer service is to focus on employee training and onboarding. Effective training ensures that employees are knowledgeable about the company and its products. Training programs should make sure that employees can best help customers. This includes being able to answer questions promptly and solve issues quickly.

14. Focus on consistency

One excellent experience with a brand rarely creates a rock-solid customer relationship. Instead, businesses must place a focus on consistency to build this relationship. According to global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. “consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy.”

A different study also found 55 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a "guaranteed" positive experience. However, getting to that place of a guaranteed positive requires consistency. McKinsey & Company recommends ensuring steadiness in three buckets:

1. Customer journey consistency

2. Customer communication consistency

3. Emotional consistency

Read more about the three “Cs” to consistency here.

15. Consider implementing a CRM platform

Customer relationship management platforms help companies manage relationships with existing customers and leads. CRM platforms store and manage customer data like contact information and the last interaction they had with your brand. You’re better positioned to provide personalized service and support by having access to this data.

These platforms are often used by sales and marketing teams to help them find and nurture potential customers. But, CRM platforms are also great tools to keep existing customers engaged and happy. For example, the platform can help remind you to send appointment reminders or when to send follow-up emails or texts. It can also prompt you to reach out to customers who have not been contacted in a while to check-in.

The bottom line

Maintaining strong customer relationships is vital to the long-term success of your business. This is especially true in a world where new competition consistently emerges. Today’s customers are consistently evaluating the relationship they have with brands. And a few negative interactions could cost you. But, there are many tactics you can use to improve customer relationships.

To learn more about how business texting can build stronger relationships with customers, click here.

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