Customers are always loyal … unless they can get whatever it is you're selling faster, cheaper or more conveniently. They may even give your competitor their business in exchange for intangibles like greater empathy or more smiles.

Your Customers Aren't Dogs

Dealing with humans is more challenging than dealing with, say, dogs — who offer a surprising amount of loyalty for relatively nothing in return.

Heck, last year, researchers at Kyoto University in Japan determined that dogs are so loyal they will refuse food offered by people who've snubbed their masters. Think about that the next time a friend takes a cookie from the neighbor who insulted you — or places an order with that company that gave you nothing but a month of headaches.

Celebrate Your Customers

So what can you do? Since April is International Customer Loyalty Month, it's a great time to reflect on both internal and external processes that impact customer retention for the better and worse.

As Shep Hyken, customer service expert and New York Times best-selling author, has said, "People think customer loyalty is about a lifetime. It isn’t. Customer Loyalty is about the next time – every time. Customers usually have a choice. So, what are you doing today that will make your customer, the next time they want what it is that you sell, do business with you instead of one of your competitors?"

3 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

Jeff Adcock is ‎Chief Strategy Officer and SVP of Alliances at Bluffdale, Utah-based Needle, which markets an advocate-powered customer experience (CX) platform. Founded in 2010, its software identifies online customers who need help making a purchase decision and matches them, real-time, with certified advocates who have first-hand knowledge of the products they’re considering.

Adcock thinks you can increase customer loyalty among online shoppers by improving communication and peer-to-peer interactions. And while that's hardly surprising — Needle markets those exact services — the tips are worth considering.

Provide support by mimicking brick-and-mortar

Replicate the in-store experience by offering live associates to online consumers as well.

Leverage user-generated content

Make sure each product on your site lists ample, easy-to-find specifications.

Instill brand trust through peers

Provide your customers peer-to-peer interactions by activating passionate brand advocates who can offer first-hand knowledge and trusted advice as a result of owning and using the products themselves.

What do you do to encourage customer loyalty? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Title image "Our Frenchie Claire" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Bob Bekian