Business-to-customer relationships parallel person-to-person relationships in the most basic way: everyone wants to be shown a little love.

Single touch-points occur all the time- for example, asking for a cup of sugar from your neighbor. However, it takes multiple touch-points to develop a true relationship so before you call your neighbor a trusted friend, you might help him dig his car out of the snow, your children may play in each other’s yards, he might come to your barbecue, and so forth.

Business-to-customer relationships are similar. Focusing all of your customer relationship energy on the sale may result in short-term gains, but if you neglect other stages of your customer lifecycle (customer support, service, renewal, etc.), you’ve lost out on a huge opportunity to make a life-long customer.

The Importance of the Customer Lifecycle

Forrester recommends that organizations ditch the traditional marketing funnel and replace it with a process that builds an ongoing relationship with the customer: the customer life cycle.

As customer experience guru Annette Franz emphasizes, the moment of sale is not the stopping point when it comes to your customers:

“Discounts might be working well to bring customers in the door, but do they stay after they’re in? Can you keep those that you acquire? Are you creating a precedence that is not sustainable?”

In other words, are you simply focused on getting a sale rather than building a long-term relationship? If so, then you are making a big mistake.

In it for the Long Haul

The truth of the matter is that customers aren’t looking for you to provide a stunning customer experience. They just want to know that you are a dependable, honest company that is willing to communicate regularly with them. They want sales, marketing and service to be transparent and easy. Customer care needs to be reliable across all stages.

If a company is only looking at the sales side of things, they’re giving off the message that they aren’t practicing “customer love.” Instead, they only seem to be interested in their customers for an immediate sale without providing much long-term value in return. And really, if a company isn’t dedicated to helping their customer out, why should the customer be loyal to them?

After your first sale interaction with the customer, your relationship has only begun. Now you must ensure that you live up to everything you promised.

The Right Tools for Each Situation

Targeting and acquiring customers is a starting point, but you must then continue to provide a positive experience when onboarding, supporting, growing and retaining your customers. The way you treat your customers after the sale influences the relationship for the rest of the customer lifecycle.

Ensuring your customers’ needs are met at each stage may require utilizing a number of tools at different times. Moreover, while at some point customers may be able to self-serve, there will also be times when you will need to connect directly with your customers.

Be sure you provide an easy means to move from self-serve to humanized assistance, across channels, so you can meet your customers where they want to be.

Show Your Customers Love

If you show your customers love, they will show you love in return. And if you build long-term relationships based on true customer love, you will make your customers happy and enable your business to grow.