Customer loyalty and retention are both key to business success.

Retaining customers contributes significantly to long-term profitability, as the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent, while this number drops to 5-20 percent for new customers. And satisfied existing customers are more likely to refer others to your business.

But to encourage customer loyalty, your business must move beyond transactional relationships and connect with customers on a personal level.

To better understand and build relationships with customers, I encourage my team to leverage a technique that has long been used for striking up conversation and making meaningful small talk. And it all comes down to four letters -- FORD. See what each letter stands for and how your team can apply the technique in customer conversations below.

1. F -- Ask them about their Family.

The first letter in the FORD acronym stands for family. Whether you're engaging with a new customer or getting to know a long-time customer better, asking about his or her family shows you truly care on a personal level.

If your customer has kids, consider asking if they play any sports. If they do, next time you talk to the customer, you can easily engage with them by asking about the most recent game. The customer will be pleasantly surprised that you remembered this small detail about his or her personal life.

Always have at least a few family-related questions ready when you talk to customers -- it can even be as easy as "How is your family?"

2. O -- Talk about Occupation.

Occupation is the second word in the acronym. While you might know some information about your customers' occupations as a result of your business relationship, it always helps to learn more.

Ask questions such as how they ended up in their roles, what they like best about their roles and what they want to improve. Not only will this show customers you're interested, but it can help you gain insight into ways your business can help make their jobs easier.

As a result, this can increase the chances of customer retention and might even present the opportunity to offer your customer additional products or services.

3. R -- Ask about Recreational activities.

The third letter stands for recreation. This ultimately refers to anything your customers do for enjoyment or relaxation.

For example, do they have any vacations coming up? Or do they have specific hobbies or a favorite sports team? For customers with favorite sports teams, you can send a small piece memorabilia -- such as a hat or t-shirt -- to show you remember and care about their interests. Or, you can do something as simple as mentioning a recent win the next time you talk to the customer.

This simple gesture will go a long way with strengthening your customer relationships -- and might even lead to your customers referring their friends or colleagues to work with your business.

4. D -- Talk about their Dreams.

The final letter in the FORD technique stands for dreams. When it comes to your customers, dreams can apply to their aspirations on the job or in their personal lives.

To get to know more about your customers' dreams, ask questions such as "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?," "What's one goal you want to achieve in your lifetime?" or "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"

Similar to the occupation step, you can learn a lot about your customers on a personal level, and their answers might lead to identifying new ways your business can help them achieve their dreams.

The next time you engage with your customers, go beyond discussing goals and results. Ask about your customers' families, occupation, recreation and dreams to get to know them on a deeper level and build meaningful relationships. Doing so can make a world of difference with your customer loyalty and retention.