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The 4 Secrets to Achieving Customer Loyalty Every business wants loyal customers, yet we often forget how crucial relationships are to our success.

By Seth Bailey Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Building strong relationships with our customers encourages them to come back to us. From a financial perspective, we know that keeping customers is far less expensive than acquiring new ones – a path that requires marketing, sales and ramp-up costs. And we know that satisfied customers help us attract newcomers. What people say about your company online today is almost more important than what you say in your marketing collateral. So it pays to have a loyal base of customers evangelizing and advocating for your business.

With this in mind, here are four simple secrets you can use to build stronger relationships with your customers and increase their loyalty.

Related: The 3 Essentials Customers Want Most

1. Discover what's important to your customers.

Ask them what they value. Are they willing to pay more for the highest quality, or do they value a good deal? Do they have money but no time or vice versa? Determine what your customers value the most and put your emphasis there. If your product or service is often given as a gift, offer gift-wrapping or cards as a complimentary service.

Customize and personalize to create offerings that satisfy the unique needs of each customer. For example, baby boomers often prefer to speak with a live customer service representative, while millennials often prefer email.

2. Earn and keep their trust.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. The easiest way to build trust with your customers is by keeping your promises and making things easy to understand. Be clear and concise in your communications; it will help manage expectations. Keep a detailed summary of all customer communication, so your conversations evolve to become as personalized and accurate as possible.

Related: Win Customer Loyalty With an Unexpected Experience

It's vital to hear feedback. Invest in customer survey tools so your company can make improvements, fine-tune strategies and create new offerings. By taking meaningful action on feedback, you show -- not tell -- your customers that they have been heard and understood.

3. Take pride in what you do.

Do your job and do it well. Exceed expectations whenever possible. If a promise is not kept -- such as delivery time or quality of service --acknowledge the mistake, apologize and offer a real solution. Whether it's a discount on the next purchase or a refund of the original transaction, it's critical to show your customers you care about them and value their business.

4. Offer incentives.

It's the human condition: People love perks. Frequent buyer discounts, special sales and complimentary gifts are the icing on your cake. Be creative with your offerings to form a memorable connection. It could be anything you imagine -- offer tea tasting at a clothing boutique or a 15 percent discount for the local team's winning season. Anything that creates a unique experience or fosters a sense of community will help you deepen relationships with your customers.

Creating strong, personal relationships is the key to customer loyalty. This starts by understanding the customer's needs, providing meaningful communication and maintaining trust. Any opportunity to show your customers how to get more value from you is worthwhile, because happy customers come back -- and they bring new ones with them.

Related: 6 Reasons Every Company Needs a Customer Service Roadmap

Seth Bailey

Chief Strategy Officer of iTOK

Seth Bailey is iTOK’s Chief Strategy Officer and has more than 18 years of entrepreneurial and leadership experience.

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