In today’s digitally-driven world, customer service is a company’s most critical competitive advantage. It’s also an easy way to positively differentiate your company as the customer service bar is set very low.

Author and speaker Jerry Fritz said it best, “You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.” Great customer service with empowered and engaged employees and customers not only positively affects customer retention, but also increases brand loyalty, repeat purchases, purchase volume, social media mentions, and referrals.

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. However, most companies are quick to assume their support team is meeting customer expectations without asking their customers. 80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service, but only 8% of customers believe they have experienced superior service from those same businesses. That’s a huge disconnect.

Don’t assume your customer service strategy, or execution, is hitting the mark. Here are three ways to make customer satisfaction and brand loyalty a reality by improving the customer experience through knowledge-driven support:

Welcome Customer Feedback

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. While many companies don’t like to hear customer complaints, they fail to realize those 26 other customers will most likely disappear, sharing their dissatisfaction with others, and your company will be left wondering what went wrong. That is why ongoing customer feedback is so important. Create a process to track customer feedback, both positive and negative, and respond to all of them in a timely manner. Give your customers access to a knowledge-driven support (KDS) community where they can easily share feedback and find solutions to the problems they are experiencing with, and new ways of using, your product or service. This will provide your organization with valuable insight that will strengthen your research and development efforts, your product roadmap, and your customer relationships.

Create Quality Interactions

In Being Human is Good Business, author Kristin Smaby says, “In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from ‘costly’ interactions with their customers, it’s time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology.” With AnswerHub KDS, organizations can give customers and prospects the customer service experience necessary to achieve brand loyalty. Customers prefer to find the answers to their questions online. According to a recent Forrester survey, web and mobile self-service interactions will overtake all other support channels. Use of help or FAQs on a company’s website increased from 67% in 2012 to 81% in 2015 among U.S. online adults.

Further, almost 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they will pay 17% more to a superior customer experience. Instead of picking up the phone or submitting a support ticket, customers can access an engaged online community where people, just like them, are asking questions, providing answers, and sharing knowledge about your product or service.

Build Relationships

Lauren Freedman, President of the E-Tailing Group, said, “Stellar service should be non-negotiable and merchants shouldn’t hide behind self-service tools and technology when it comes to knowing their products and taking care of their customers.” When companies rely on automated forms of customer support or self-service portals, they are robbed of the opportunity to create emotional connections and lasting connections with current and prospective customers. Strong customer relationships and superior customer service are closely intertwined. Happy employees result in happy customers. You cannot achieve brand loyalty without having both. In a KDS community, customers have the opportunity to connect with one another and also build a relationship with your brand. Excellent customer support experiences strengthen the relationships you have with customers, therefore increasing customer retention, revenue, and brand loyalty.

Loyal customers come back time and again. Raving fans recommend your product or service – they insist that others do business with you. With KDS, organizations deliver a superior support experience, while successfully transforming customers and prospects into brand advocates.