How to Build Lasting Customer Relationships

5 key components of building lasting customer relationships

In your experience, what are five key components of building lasting customer relationships?

1 . Understanding your customers’ wants and needs and how they perceive your brand.

2 . Providing a value exchange for the customer.

3 . Delivering on the brand promise with quality across all touchpoints. Most businesses think they deliver a great customer experience but when you ask the customers, they disagree.

4 . Rewarding customers for their engagement, not just making them collecting points devoid of value. Value their time and effort.

5 . Building loyalty beyond purely transactional loyalty. Build emotional loyalty by ensuring your brand is useful in their everyday life and surprises them. Become a brand people can trust.

Article originally published on 7 July 2023 on Authority magazine, a publication. 

Building loyalty beyond purely transactional loyalty. Build emotional loyalty by ensuring your brand is useful in their everyday life and surprises them. Become a brand people can trust.

Building lasting customer relationships has many benefits, including increased revenue, positive word-of-mouth recommendations, and saving on acquisition costs. But how does one do this? In this interview series, we are talking to Product Managers, founders, and authors who can share their “Five Tips For Building Lasting Customer Relationships”. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Maxime Nadeau, founder, Groove Brand Experience.

Maxime Nadeau has been working in the field of loyalty, customer experience and marketing strategy for over 10 years, in London, Paris and the French Riviera. An expert in the travel industry — his experiences range from leading airlines & hospitality brands to cruises and travel IT — he now helps brands build their overall Brand Experience strategy, convinced that the making of a brand is a promise that is actually delivered.

Thank you for doing this with us! Before we begin, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?

My brother and I wanted to be airline pilots as kids dreaming of working at Air France. Instead I joined the company years later, after completing my master’s degree in strategic management, as an analyst in the competitive intelligence department. I then moved to London, at British Airways’ cargo division but quickly figured out that I thought humans were more interesting than containers!

I got the opportunity to join the loyalty team at BA. There I learned the importance of mixing data and human insights, using focus groups, to drive more value for the business and for customers. I realized just how much customers are willing to work with brands, to help them get better, by giving feedback and sharing their invaluable experiences.

Then I moved into hospitality, working on improving the CX and loyalty of customers, helping hoteliers understand why they were failing to deliver the brand promises and not delivering on customer expectations. Identifying why they would or would not return by analyzing data but also speaking to customers or just observing them in situ.

By trying to stop guessing and working with them, you uncover so many insights that help you fix the basics which are often hugely important to generate positive customer sentiment towards brands and fuel fruitful & long-lasting relationships.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that has occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or takeaway you took from that story?

There are a few but a couple of times, early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I was contacted by 2 businesses that qualified as my “ideal clients”.

They had an issues, they had the budgets, in industries I was experienced in and would become good references for my young brand.

To try to get the deal over the line, I produced a pretty detailed plan that highlighted what needed to be done, by whom, by when, dependencies, roles & responsibilities etc.

I knew I wasn’t the cheapest but hope to convince by showing structure, method, and experience. Needless to say, I lost both deals, despite them saying that my USP in the process was that detailed plan, a really “useful” piece of work that others….didn’t provide!

I found one of the prospects had tasked an agency they already worked with on other activities not related to loyalty to carry out the work following my proposed plan when I received an email that wasn’t supposed to be sent to me (we shared the same first name). Oh well.

So, even if you want to show your value and expertise, do not send it by email — you can talk about it, maybe show it during a video call, but that work has enormous value as sometimes what customers are looking for are a diagnosis, a plan and methodology, not execution.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’ve been helping a major French fashion retailer transform its relationship marketing into a fully-fledged loyalty program. The customer feedback clearly stated that there was little value being part of the newsletter and clearly they had a huge competitive gap to close.

Providing value is more important than ever, with so many options available to customers and in the current economic climate, they are looking at how to save money and minimize their efforts & also save time. This is clearly about giving back, recognizing the efforts of customers, thanking them for their support & rewarding them for their ongoing engagement with the brand while making things easier for them in their everyday lives.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience with building lasting customer relationships? Can you share an anecdote or two that illustrates your experience in this area?

One of the main things to think about when building lasting relationships is to make engagement and as progressive as possible. For example, if you hit Gold with an airline after just 3 months, you are tempted to start collecting points to achieve status at another airline and get several Gold cards. This is obviously a huge issue for airline 1.

So carefully building the loyalty program’s arborescence, and adding intermediary benefits, triggers to keep them coming back even though they might think have achieved the highest level of rewards is one thigs to think about.

Doing so requires going beyond transactional elements and putting a surprise & delight program in place, to stay top of mind at the consideration phase of purchase.

Another one I might have mentioned earlier is being excellent on the basics. Say in hospitality, what customers want first and foremost is a good night’s sleep, a good bed, breakfast, a clean room and a nice, warm welcome. Deliver this and you have delivered most of what they expect and they will want to come back because they trust your brand.

Once you have achieved this, you can add better service, personalization to take into account their preferences and you start delivering more than they expected. That is when you can move people to giving you these 9–10s in NPS surveys, where they would recommend you brand over another and do less comparisons when shopping — why take risks by trying out new brands when you can be virtually certain that one brand will deliver? Make it easy for them to choose your brand again.

In today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving landscape, what strategies do you employ to maintain a strong connection with your customers and anticipate their changing needs?

I would recommend being Market orientated and stop trying to outguess customers — speak to them regularly, they actually love giving feedback. This helps doing a proper diagnosis to uncover the right issue before taking any action and identifying the barriers that stop people coming back.

Second, make sure you have a strategy, not just a collection of action objectives or visions, to build lasting customer relationships based around the identified (customer) challenges or barriers.

Lastly, looking at Brand Experience at a high level to ensure your brand is not just offering numerous disjointed interactions : make it easy for customers, respect their time & effort. Be grateful for the fact they considered your brand and bought from you. It is about how you are perceived at each point of interaction, and there are many! A good brand Experience get customers coming back.

Can you discuss the strategies that companies can employ to strike a balance between driving revenue and profitability, and focusing on building customer relationships and loyalty?

Here are a few ideas to drive revenue whilst generating loyalty:

  • Understand what your most loyal customers like about your brand and what they value, then focus on getting better and consistently delivering on these items.
  • Ensure the Customer experience is optimal at each moment of truth or point of interaction — you can measure these individually with voice of the customer software.
  • Again, ensure the basics are mastered. Better quality enables you to charge higher prices and improve the profitability.
  • Identifying high value (for customers) but low effort/cost (for the business) propositions — sometimes you can find gold nuggets that will deliver high returns for minimal efforts (cost or development time).

Could you describe the metrics and measures you use to evaluate the success of your customer relationship-building efforts, and how you identify areas for improvement?

I like to think about getting quality relationships (or quality members) with customers, so here are the ones I would look at:

  • Penetration of loyal/returning customers vs total customers
  • Returning/long term customer spend vs standard customer spend
  • Activity rate for returning customers vs total customer base
  • Churn or defection: understanding why people don’t return
  • Customer satisfaction and NPS — but you need to know the distinction between the 2 and what insights they actually provide.

Regarding customer-facing teams, what steps do you take to ensure they can deliver personalized, proactive, and efficient support, tailored to the needs of each individual customer?

Sharing of insights is not enough, you have to train the teams to know what can be collected, exploited and used properly, otherwise things could turn bad. Ensuring a good omnichannel performance across the customer journey with a good tech stack and allowing customers to provide their preferences. However, you have to use that data as if a customer has been asked to provide additional information about his preferences, it creates and expectation that he will get something in return.

What tips do you have for responding to negative feedback from customers, and what steps can be taken to turn those experiences into positive outcomes?

First, show you actually care and listen by acknowledging how they feel and apologizing for the issue. Do not try to put a spin on things as this would make things worse and look as if you are just shrugging off their concerns.

Look at what can be offered that does not cost much to the business but has value to the customer: is it points, or an additional service like late check out? There are many propositions that cost virtually nothing but can compensate for a bad experience.

Lastly, how do you use technology or AI to enhance your customer relationships, and what tools have you found to be most effective in building and maintaining them?

I usually use Voice of the customer software to gather surveys, e-reputation and gathering feedback. Then as you would expect, a good loyalty management system to build the customer engagement propositions and mechanism. Other than that go and speak or observe customers as data only tells you one side of the story.