With customer expectations at an all-time high, we know it’s no longer enough to simply provide good service. So, how can your business build and maintain a genuine, lasting relationship with your customers? Your customer experience program—whether formal or in development—can help you get a pulse on what your customers are thinking, feeling, and expecting from you. Here are several tips to hone your focus on delivering a truly exceptional customer experience, driving long-term satisfaction and loyalty:

Know what they’re saying

While still driven by our gut and personal experiences to make purchases, more often than not, we turn to feedback from family and friends or reviews from strangers for help. Over time, this builds a company’s reputation in the market. Tips for steering the conversation:

  • Know what’s being said about your company and products through every possible avenue that a customer can leave feedback.
  • Solicit feedback with every customer interaction and through surveys so that you have a good idea of how customers are experiencing your company.
  • Listen to identify quick wins and longer term process improvements.

Putting yourself in the thick of what customers are hearing, experiencing, or learning about your company presents the opportunity to help shape the story.

Create great impressions

Friendly is a great way to start every relationship. Being helpful and efficient with every interaction will preserve that feel-good factor and ensure the relationship wears well over time. Consistency is key here. Are all your internal teams and external vendors on board with, and trained to deliver on, your service standards? Additionally, if your customers interact with you online or through your app, that experience should be as efficient, reliable and—where appropriate—personalized, as it would be over the phone or in person.

We often only have a fleeting window of time to directly interact with a customer. Exceptional customer service, when delivered consistently, is your greatest opportunity to proactively shape each customer’s perception of your company. Little else leaves as much of a lasting impression, except—perhaps—when things don’t go to plan.

Prepare to repair

It’s all about how you handle problems when they happen—and they will happen. When you’re in the maintenance stage of a relationship, nobody wants to have to fall back to the warranty. Tips for proactive damage control:

  • Show appreciation for your loyal customers at every opportunity. Thank them often for doing business with you, which reaffirms the choice they’ve made.
  • Consider your current customers in your annual marketing plan to be sure they feel valued.
  • Practice transparency. When mistakes happen, own them and communicate.
  • Encourage an empathetic approach to customer service and decision making. While it may not make immediate business sense, it’s worth considering when taking a long-term view.

When reputation, customer service, problem resolution, and reliable technology align—you’ve built a great customer experience. Creating that exceptional, lasting experience takes time and persistence; committing to every stage of the relationship will keep your brand top of mind, and your customers with you for the long haul.

By Arissa Egan, Customer Experience & Engagement Manager at Camden National Bank, which was recently named Customer Experience Leader in U.S. Retail Banking by Greenwich Associates for the second year in a row.