Building customer relationships

When you’re looking for a long-term commitment.

Your business is nothing without your customers. Developing the right customer service strategy, one that treats customers well and keeps them coming back for more, can help make your business even more profitable. Our guide looks at improving your customer service, encouraging customer commitment and how to avoid the wrong kind of loyalty.

Master the essentials of customer service

Under-promise and over-deliver.

Offering a good overall customer service experience is a critical part of building long-term, profitable relationships with your clients. Here are some ways to increase general customer satisfaction with your business:

  • give your staff customer-service training
  • make sure you have enough staff to handle all your customers' needs
  • follow up with customers after a sale to make sure they're satisfied
  • look for ways to improve overall efficiency – passing on reduced costs or cutting delivery times are good ways to keep customers happy
  • follow the golden rule of customer service: under-promise and over-deliver
  • deal with complaints effectively and offer to make things right with a refund or replacement product
  • check with customers who have had problems that they're satisfied with your resolution.

Turn occasional customers into regular clients

Use expiry dates on coupons.

Take a look at your occasional customers to:

  • Analyse the demographics – could you better meet their needs by adjusting your product or service?
  • Identify buying patterns – then contact customers to offer a special deal on their usual order.
  • Send a newsletter with new product lines or special deals – expiry dates on coupons will encourage customers to act.
  • Tailor your newsletters, emails and phone calls to specific clients/client groups to give them just the right amount of helpful, targeted information.

Using loyalty-building strategies

Take time to make personal connections.

You can help drive repeat business by:

  • giving discounts to customers who place bulk orders or spend a certain amount over a specified period – this can give customers a spending goal and encourage them to use you over a competitor
  • offering deals for repeat or standing orders
  • enhancing the customer service experience for your best customers – you could offer a VIP service team or more generous refund and replacement policy
  • investing time in making personal connections with your most valuable customers.

Make yourself indispensable

Ask what your customers would like to change.

The best way to make sure customers keep bringing their business to you is by consistently meeting their needs, not just offering discounted prices:

  • Look at how your customers prefer to contact you – phone, email or face to face – and improve that communication channel.
  • Analyse past customer service interactions to see what your customers’ priorities are, e.g. delivery times, value, new product lines or reliability.
  • Examine competitor offerings to see if they're adding value to their product or service in a way that you're not – then better it.
  • Spend time with your customers to see how they're actually using your product. Ask them what they'd like to see more of or less of in the future.
  • Keep communicating with employees who deal directly with your customers so you can react quickly to any issues.

Avoid the wrong kinds of loyalty.

To make the most from your customer loyalty campaigns don't be afraid to drop the wrong kinds of customers.

  • Identify which customers are most profitable and focus your efforts on increasing their business.
  • Look for ways to maximise profitability e.g. encourage bulk orders so you benefit from economies of scale, or give discounts on standing orders.
  • Expand your customer loyalty tactics beyond price cuts – not all customers are motivated by price.
  • Drop unprofitable clients who abuse a generous refund policy or take up time with repeated requests for work to be re-done or products exchanged – you’ll improve staff morale and free up time for profitable customers.

Further Help & Guidance

Related content

Understanding your market

Creating a marketing plan

Useful links

The Market Research Society

Open a business account

To open a new business account or switch to us please call on

0345 300 1319

Business mentoring

Could your business benefit from the support of a business mentor? MentorSME, a free online service, enables you to find local independent mentoring organisations.