cupid's bow and arrow in a field in front of a bridge
PHOTO: Francisco Delgado

Valentine’s Day rolls around every February as a reminder to reflect on the relationships in your life. It’s a time to feel grateful for the people who make your days a little brighter and your heart a little more full. It’s also time to appreciate the effort that goes into maintaining a strong connection, because romantic or otherwise, healthy relationships certainly don’t materialize overnight.

In business, for example, the relationship between company and customer requires ongoing effort from both parties — not just when you’re trying to seal the deal. But research shows the hard work for customer loyalty is well worth it. A 2018 report found almost half of customers would spend additional money, and even more would be willing to recommend a company (65%), if they felt loyal to the brand.

Whether in my work life, as a director of product marketing, or in my home life, as a married mother of two — I’m always thinking about how to strengthen healthy relationships. While there’s no tried-and-true roadmap to relationship success, when it comes to your customers, there are several steps you can take to establish open communication, mutual confidence and trust. In the spirit of the day, here are three steps for building rewarding customer relationships that last long after Cupid’s arrow strikes.

1. Connect for the Right Reasons

Before one date (or meeting) turns into 10, make sure the relationship is one worth building. When it comes to taking on a new customer, think critically about whether or not the partnership will truly benefit both parties. If you force a match that isn’t the right fit, you could compromise company values and risk the well-being of your business and employees.

In early conversations, prioritize honesty and avoid sugar-coating realities that the customer might not want to hear. By asking and answering tough questions, you will ensure that there’s a clear understanding of what your company brings to the table, and what’s needed from your customer for the partnership to succeed.

Related Article: Rethinking Customer Engagement: Put Your Relationship First

2. Make Time to Talk About Your Relationship Regularly

In romantic relationships, it's essential to set aside time to connect one-on-one — away from work, your kids, even your phone. In business, it’s equally important to evaluate and recalibrate your relationships regularly. Customer needs and preferences are constantly evolving, which means what worked in the beginning of your relationship may no longer be hitting the mark.

Open dialogue with customers will allow you to pinpoint problem areas, while also driving improved CX metrics like your Net Promoter Score (NPS), an indicator of customer loyalty and insight into potential brand ambassadors. Set up regular meetings or invite feedback through surveys and forms to address what’s working and what’s not — even with customers who don’t actively voice complaints. Any business professional knows that it’s easy to get distracted by tricky clients and situations, but client engagements that run smoothly require attention too.

Related Article: The Secret to Actionable VoC and Customer Journey Mapping Programs

3. Personalize Experiences Without Overstepping

Customers have come to expect personalization when engaging with the brands they love. With the widespread adoption of digital platforms, consumer data has quickly become a modern necessity for providing unique, personalized experiences. In a world of Tinder- or Hinge-driven relationships, for example, personal tastes and “swipe tendencies” are leveraged to drive customized matches.

Though data is a powerful, worthwhile tool, it’s important that customers understand how their data is being used to their advantage. Confusion around how companies access a customer’s personal information can threaten the foundation of trust you established from the start. Consumers find it more creepy than helpful when a company knows information that wasn’t directly provided to them. With full transparency about how consumer insights inform business solutions, you can avoid feelings of mistrust down the line.

Related Article: Customer Trust: Are We Experiencing an Existential Crisis?

End Relationships on a Good Note

As with any relationship, sometimes it comes time to part ways, despite best intentions on both sides. If your customer chooses to take their business elsewhere, support them through the very end of your partnership. Remember the peak-end rule, a principle of psychology that describes how we remember our experiences: with a focus on the emotional peaks and the eventual end. It’s always best to separate on a high note, no matter the reason for parting — the customer could always return, or recommend your services to a friend who could be a better fit.

Customer connections require thoughtful effort every step of the way, but there’s no better time than Valentine’s Day to remind them why they’ve fallen head over heels for your product or service. By prioritizing honesty, communication and transparency, your company is sure to build relationships worth celebrating all year round.