What was the biggest customer service debacle of the year? And what retail brand won their loyaltycustomers’ hearts by eliminating one of their most profitable product lines? Businesses looking to strengthen customer loyalty initiatives this year should take a look at 2014’s successes and failures in customer experience. From social-media meltdowns to brilliant, risky marketing moves, the year was full of both destructive and triumphant events that either built up or destroyed the relations between brands and their customers.

We asked some of the top #CX thought leaders and even a few outspoken consumers to cite events from the past year that were extreme in the sense that they heavily impacted customer loyalty for the business(es) involved. And the experts also weighed in on the lessons that other businesses can extract from both the greatest successes as well as the most notable failures in customer experience.

1. Be human

One way for corporations to lose customers is to treat people like data. A recent poll conducted by SAP & Ipsos reported that 48 percent of consumers reported that brands were too slow or never replied to their emails. These folks- dubbed the “Ignored” customers- appear to be a growing faction whose concerns and queries go unresolved by brands.

Doug Levy, the author of “Can’t Buy Me Like,” cites United Airlines’ boilerplate apology to a customer (who posted the letter on Reddit) as an egregious example of the impersonal touch.

The letter read, in part: “Your comments regarding [SPECIFIC EVENT] will be used for coaching and training our employees.”

A big part of retaining customers is showing you care, says Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business.

“Customer service is a very personal thing, not an algorithm,” says Wagner, who singled out Facebook’s disliked Year In Review feature.

The slideshow option compiled snapshots from 2014’s big moments, based on the number of comments and likes on a user’s photos.

But some users relived unwelcome reminders about lost loved ones and tragedies.

“That’s the kind of thing that happens when companies … depend on algorithms,” Wagner says.

2. Invest in future wins

“The biggest customer service debacle of the year” belongs to Comcast, says Shep Hyken, author of “The Loyal Customer.”

An excruciating eight-minute audio of Ryan Block trying to cancel his Comcast service quickly went viral. The Comcast rep keeps asking Block why he wants to drop Comcast.

It truly illustrated the plight of the Ignored consumer, whose requests simply were not being heard or accepted.

Hyken believes companies should think more about making people happy, even if it means losing sales in the short run.

“I want [customers] to know I’m a good guy and more interested in their success than me making a sale,” Hyken says. “When they do that, eventually the sale is going to come.”

3. Values are valuable

CVS Health made a big move in October when it ended the sale of cigarettes in the chain’s 7,600 stores nationwide. It was a “bold decision” and a strong statement about the brand’s identity, says Levy. “It said: We’re a company that cares about health.”

Despite taking cigarette sales out of their stores, CVS Health reported an increase in revenue of 9.7 percent in the company’s fourth quarter compared to the same period a year ago. They were clearly tapping into what SAP has dubbed “the Virtuous” consumer whose personal values align with those of a brand. According to a 2014 poll by SAP and Ipsos, 30% of consumers polled cited shared values as a top 3 reason for brand loyalty.

By the same token, demonstrations of shady behavior work against a brand, says Hyken, who cites Uber, which suffered after reports of a senior exec’s suggestion that the company dig up dirt on its media critics. Shortly after that, it was revealed that the company implemented “surge” price hikes during December’s Sydney hostage incident. Calls to boycott Uber sprung up worldwide.

4. Social media is serious business

In the digital age, customer engagement is easier than ever, but that can make customer interactions a minefield, says Hyken.

Better employee training on how to respond to social media could have helped Southwest Airlines avoid one turbulent situation this year.

The airline booted Duff Watson, an “A-list Preferred Member,” and his family off a flight after he tweeted: “RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA.” Watson was miffed that his children weren’t allowed to join him in the priority line. There was no profanity or threat, but crew still saw fit to remove Watson for his tweet.

“That was mishandled,” says Hyken, noting that Watson was one of the airline’s Invested customers (those who, in the SAP schema, follow alerts and interact with brands). “We’re going to need training for staff to resolve social-media issues like this.”

5. Brand equity

Apple devotees love their devices’ design and style, but even some of the most Virtuous users didn’t love it when the tech giant downloaded U2’s newest album, “Songs of Innocence,” to their devices without consent.

If good customer experience is personal, as Wagner says, then pushing the Irish band’s album into 500 million iTunes accounts was highly presumptuous.

Fortunately for Apple, the brand had built up enough goodwill to weather the storm and retain their already loyal- or “Invested” customers.

In the end, says Wagner, Apple “has such strong brand equity that their customers forgave them.”