Keeping your customers is perhaps more important than finding new ones. That's because there's a lot riding on an existing customer relationship that you can't afford to lose. Research shows that customer acquisition costs 5 to 25 times more than retention does. That means if you can hang on to those customers by developing loyalty, you'll end up spending much less on marketing.

To create loyalty, you need to provide an exceptional experience. Studies have found that 89 percent of customers switch brands due to a bad customer experience. Service-related problems are behind the majority of customer losses, not the price of a product or service. In fact, customer experience as a loyalty factor is pegged to be the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Customers don't want to just buy a great product or select a reliable service. They want to turn the actual purchase into an experience that's enjoyable. They want it to be something more than a simple transaction they pay for; there's got to be some type of emotion involved that forms a good memory. The customer can share the story with his social circle or recall it when he's about to buy something else.

The Experience Is in the Details

Jessica Branson, chief relationship officer at Inspira Marketing, an experiential marketing agency, notes that creating that experience doesn't have to be a huge, costly production. "It's the small things that make the biggest impact with your customers. By paying attention to the smallest detail, including remembering and acknowledging certain facts about each customer, your customers' impression of their experience will grow by leaps and bounds. Again, it can be something as simple as saying 'Thank you,' and you've delivered a customer experience unlike no other."

Here are five other detail-oriented tactics to consider for creating the types of exceptional customer experiences that lead to brand loyalty:

1. Exclusives

Your customers love the idea that they're getting something that no one else has access to. That's because you're rewarding them for the sole fact that they have purchased from your brand. The exclusive deal can be something like a percentage discount on their current bill, a coupon to use on a future purchase, free shipping, or a sample of a new product that hasn't been widely released yet. These customers will continue to come back in hopes of finding more of these great deals that make their experience with you that much sweeter.

2. Rewards and Referral Fees

You want to keep your current customers while building your market share. This gives you the best of both while providing customers with a positive experience. This involves some type of reward or financial "thank you" every time customers refer other customers to you. Again, this doesn't have to break the bank. Even the smallest token shows the type of appreciation customers are seeking from you.

3. Authentic Concern

As a customer yourself, you may have experienced a situation in which a company didn't seem genuine in its concern about you. Instead, it felt fake, which left you feeling less than appreciated or valued. You realized you were just a number and that the company's words meant nothing.

Instead,  focus on the idea of how much those customers really mean. They're people with individual lives, unique situations, and very real feelings. Take the time to keep notes on your customers so you can address anything that means something to them, such as their kids' school events or experiences that impacted them. This type of personalization would come from previous information they shared and can be the focal point for showing how much you care. This type of relationship-building effort yields trust and connection, creating lasting bonds.

4. Fast Responses and Open Ears

Even the most experience-focused companies are going to have issues arise that can deliver a less-than-stellar impression. The best thing you can do here is to respond quickly to the disappointment that the customer feels about their experience with you. By quickly acknowledging the issue, you can leave that customer with a good feeling and a memory that supersedes the bad situation.

As part of this fast response, don't do all the talking. Actively listen to customers' opinions about their situations. Those opinions will also be shaped by the fact that you absorbed and accepted their feedback about what went wrong. When you go to work to fix the issue, this proactive approach will also help smooth out the experience for them. They can see you were listening and cared enough to make the necessary changes.

This fast response is also necessary when a customer shares his bad experience in a review or on a social media site. You want to monitor all platforms for anything negative and both publicly and privately address the negative perception. As part of this, you should also make sure that the customer updates his review and opinion with his social circle to ensure it doesn't deter others from experiencing what you have to offer.

5. Streamline and Simplify

A good experience doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles. If anything, today's customers define a good experience as one that's quick and easy. While they want to feel good during the purchase, part of those warm fuzzies come from how simple it was to get in and out with exactly what they were looking for.

And this goes for both online and offline customer experiences. Technology has further shortened attention spans, so you don't need to confuse customers with too many choices or a complicated checkout process. Make a clear path to purchase. This might involve a guided selling solution or the option to use a digital wallet or stored checkout information in as few clicks as possible. All that matters is that the possibility of completing a purchase with your brand is appealing and inviting -- which will ensure customers want to stick around.

Published on: Dec 11, 2017