CX experts share their top tips for building customer loyalty

Every company dreams of amassing a huge fan base of intensely loyal customers, but true customer loyalty is hard to earn and doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and dedication.

Many companies struggle to answer the question: What exactly does real customer loyalty look like? And the next logical question is: How can a business build customer loyalty?

Naturally, creating a great product or service is important, and so is designing and delivering a great customer experience. But those are table stakes. When we asked CX practitioners and experts for their best tips for building customer loyalty, a few themes emerged. As you’ll read in their answers below, to turn customers into loyal fans, you must focus on consistency, listen to your customers and act on what you learn, and always be honest.

What is customer loyalty?

“Customer loyalty represents a committed relationship that has been established between a brand and a customer. When a customer has confidence their expectations will be met consistently, loyalty to that brand can be gifted in return.”

Nate Brown, @CustomerIsFirst
Co-founder at CX Accelerator

“Customer loyalty is when the company has earned the opportunity to serve the customer again and again. And while brands can lock customers into loyalty programs through contracts and status programs, the best loyalty is when the customer returns because the customer experience is superior.”

Blake Morgan, @BlakeMichelleM
Author of The Customer Of The Future: 10 Guiding Principles for Winning Tomorrow’s Business

“The bar for a positive customer experience continues to rise. Not only are customers looking to avoid a “bad” customer experience, they want a completely intuitive, frictionless experience that may not even require their full attention. At this point, even the disruptors are getting disrupted by newer companies that are tweaking the modern user experience. So the key to customer loyalty is to realize that the customer journey is evolving and to continuously adjust the experience for their own customers accordingly.”

Mio Adilman, @mioadilman
Showrunner and host, Repeat Customer podcast

“A loyal customer consistently selects a brand, product, or service without considering competing alternatives, even if those alternatives might offer advantages such as a better price, superior features, or an enhanced experience.

There are two common types of loyalty. One is convenience. For example, many people stay with the same bank, cell phone provider, or internet service provider simply because the perceived hassle of switching. Or we’ll consistently order products from the same website because we already have an account and we can place an order in just a few clicks.

The other type of loyalty is emotional. This is when we feel so strongly about a brand, product, or service that we’ll go out of our way to be a customer and will often tell other people about it. For instance, you might drive past three coffee shops to get to your favorite store just because the employees know you by name and remember your favorite drink.”

Jeff Toister, @toister
Author of The Service Culture Handbook

“Customer loyalty encompasses a few key behaviors. The first is the customer’s decision to continue to do business with your company — and this one is tricky because your business model could be one where a customer is locked into a long term contract, or perhaps the cost of switching companies is prohibitive, or there may be no viable alternatives. That’s not necessarily loyalty and represents a real business risk should a disrupter ever enter your marketplace. That’s why two additional customer behaviors are critical. The first is where customers take the time to recommend your business to their network. The second is where customers care enough to share their feedback about your product or service, giving you the opportunity to improve and continue to win their business. Where these three behaviors are present, there are loyal customers.”

Jeremy Watkin, @jtwatkin
Director of Customer Experience, FCR

What is your best tip for building customer loyalty?

“When you’re providing customer care, you build customers’ loyalty by being real with them. Tell them the truth—in candid, caring words—even when you wish you had a different answer. Express genuine empathy for their situation, even if you can’t improve it. Help them the way they want to be helped, in the channel they’d prefer, with the amount of hand-holding they’d like. Don’t hide behind your policies or become defensive about your practices. If you behave like a real person who simply intends to help, customers will be loyal.”

Leslie O’Flahavan, @LeslieO
Principal and Owner, E-WRITE

“Hands down, the best way to build loyalty with customers is through consistency. Our perception of a brand is largely based on expectations. In this world where things often go wrong, we are conditioned to highly value stability. When the flight does not leave on time, or the sandwich has mayo on it, or the furniture company misses the delivery window, we experience a loss of control. Even minor things can repel a customer for decades. Alternatively, when we can trust a brand to “get it right,” we are drawn to them like a magnet.”

Nate Brown, @CustomerIsFirst
Co-founder at CX Accelerator

“My best tip for building loyalty with customers is to listen to what they are saying, to acknowledge what they are saying, and to actively do something with what they are saying. Customers often find it is a waste of time to share feedback because they think no one will actually listen. Sometimes, the surprise and delight that leads to customer loyalty comes from actively listening to feedback and making visible improvements.”

Jenny Dempsey, @jennysuedempsey
Customer Experience Manager at NumberBarn
Certified Health Coach at Jenny Dempsey Wellness

“Emotional connections are powerful loyalty drivers. One of the best ways to do this is through humanizing service interactions. Encourage employees to develop authentic rapport with the people they serve so the service experience doesn’t feel like a cold transaction.

A great example comes from Antica Trattoria, my favorite restaurant in San Diego. The host, servers, and bussers all recognize regular diners. They greet them by name and go out of their way to greet customers seated in sections other than their own. The owner sets a great example and can often be seen in the dining room talking to guests. When you go there, you feel like you belong.”

Jeff Toister, @toister
Author of The Service Culture Handbook

“Some of the best, most affordable marketing is loyal customers. We live in a viral age, and your customers, when inspired to express their brand loyalty in original and authentic ways, will be your best ambassadors. So instead of imagining what “customer experience” they want, design the one that they ask for. If you listen, your customers will tell you exactly what they want. And that may be the scariest trend for legacy businesses, because it may require a total redesign, but the benefits are clear.

The other thing we’ve seen is that good “customer experience” doesn’t always scale as quickly as other aspects of your business. It must be done deliberately with flexibility to pause if necessary to address unforeseen issues. To some degree, let your customers tell you how comfortable they are along the way.”

Mio Adilman, @mioadilman
Showrunner and host, Repeat Customer podcast