It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that customers are the lifeblood of a business. Without a steady stream of paying customers coming through your company’s doors either literally or metaphorically, you can’t expect your business to survive for long.

However, when someone buys from your company, this should mark the start, not the end, of your relationship with that customer. Retaining an existing customer is six to seven times cheaper than acquiring a new one, marketing guru Neil Patel reveals. So, how can you strengthen your relationships with customers?

Have two-way conversations with your customers

While you should naturally keep in touch with your customers, you should be wary of simply treating this as an opportunity to tell them what your business is about. You should also take time to listen to what your customers have to say, including about their pain points – as your business could help to resolve them.

Ultimately, you should aim to proactively act on your customers’ wants rather than wait until they contact you first through one of your customer service channels.

Regularly beat your customers’ expectations

In the long run, it’d be better for your company to under-promise and over-deliver rather than, well, over-promise and under-deliver. You could exceed expectations through, for example, delivering a customer an item sooner than they would think from the delivery estimate you have given them.

For when a customer phones your support hotline, a telecoms firm like Voco could, on your request, put in place call routing menus for that customer to use to more easily find information they need from you.

Be authentic and transparent

Authenticity is about showing your brand’s unique voice without descending into dull, “salesy” language, while transparency is about being ethical and trustworthy.

That means being open and honest about when your company falters and lets its customers down. Your customers will appreciate you showing this kind of transparency, as it is not always too common in the business world and so your own business will stand out for an especially refreshing reason.

Invite each customer to leave feedback

They could do that through filling in and submitting, say, a comment card you leave out on your business counter or a survey you send them online or in the post. Even just that small gesture of inviting feedback from customers would signal to them that their thoughts are important to you.

Whether the customer gives you a compliment or complaint, you should respond quickly, such as by thanking the customer and, if the feedback is negative, addressing the problem.

Show your customers you appreciate them

In an article for Entrepreneur, serial entrepreneur Mike Kappel suggests that you could do this by introducing a loyalty discount program. You could make this work by handing out reward cards or using a loyalty program app to keep track of customer rewards.

A loyalty scheme would let customers earn points when buying from your business and then convert those points into a reward, like money off their next purchase from you.