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3 Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Build Outstanding Customer Experiences The key to creating a customer experience that truly surprises and delights starts with understanding what your customers need, want and value most.

By Maggie Patterson Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The tried and true saying of "it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one happy" is at the heart of customer experience. A 2015 report from online marketing company Invesp found that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is between 5 and 20 percent. Yet, most companies focus their time and energy on new customer acquisition over retention.

Creating a customer experience that surprises and delights every step of the way can yield major returns through improved lifetime customer value as well as the kind of fans that share and happily refer your company time and time again.

But how exactly can an entrepreneur -- big or small -- ensure that they're delivering the best possible customer experience? I recently invited more than 35 successful entrepreneurs to share their ideas and insights on creating customer experiences that set them apart.

Related: 3 Fundamentals of Better Customer Experiences

Here's what a few of them had to say:

1. Listening is critical to customer experience.

To design a customer experience that delivers what your clients or customers really need, you need to avoid making assumptions. It's far too easy to decide we know what our customers need instead of creating the time and space to hear what they need and want from our organization.

"We invest heavily in customer support and happiness in a constant effort to bring response times down, and we have an open line of communication with each customer. In fact, it's one of our biggest line items in the budget. People want to feel seen and heard more than almost anything else," says Natalie MacNeil, 'Chieftess' of She Takes on the World.

2. Customer experience is about the details.

When designing and delivering on customer experience initiatives, we can get carried away with grand gestures of gifts, discounts or other special things, which don't really matter if we don't handle the small details that happen when we're delivering our product or service. Mapping out those touch points and ensuring we deliver on our brand promise is always going to be more effective than the most amazing thank-you gift.

Related: 4 Steps to Ensuring Customer Experience Comes First

"Communication is the name of the game. A lot of people think that you have to buy a gift for your clients in order to create awesome client experiences, but I think the biggest thing clients care about is how well they're being treated and how smooth the process is...not necessarily what they're getting," says Amanda Genther, a designer and digital product strategist.

3. Personalizing the experience can go a long way.

Customer experience is just that, an experience, which is exactly why you want to humanize it as much as possible. There's a huge difference between a mass mailed postcard and a personalized email, or a routine follow-up call from the call center and a call from the person who sold you the solution in the first place. Going the extra mile will get your company remembered and help to breed loyalty.

"I make a point of remembering what's important to them and checking up on how it's going. For instance, one of my clients was launching an app. I put the launch date in my calendar. Then shortly after the launch, I sent him an email to see how it was going. He was thrilled that I remembered. His app was like his birthday," says Dr. Michelle Mazur of Communication Rebel.

The key to creating a customer experience that truly surprises and delights starts with understanding what your customers need, want and value most. Investing the time to design a customer experience with their needs at the core will go a long way to building the loyalty that makes an impact on your bottom line.

Related: 3 Ways to Create Customer Experiences That Boost Sales

Maggie Patterson

Communications Strategist

Maggie Patterson is a communications strategist focused on storytelling as the way to make marketing meaningful. With 15 years experience, she works with entrepreneurs and corporations to help them tell the stories that matter and boost the bottom line in the process.

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