A guide to managing customer relationships.

Titilola Shittu
April 8, 2024

To be honest, customer relationships can feel like a bad date – awkward silences, forced conversations, and a desperate hope for escape. 

You fix one issue, and another pops up. Loyalty programs seem like a bottomless pit of free stuff, and genuine connection feels about as likely as winning a lottery.

But what if there was a way to break the cycle?  A customer relations strategy that builds loyalty that goes deeper than a discount code? 

This guide is about forging real connections and building genuine relationships with the people who keep your business afloat – your customers.

What is customer relation?

Customer relations is all about building and maintaining positive interactions with your customers. It's the big picture of how your company treats its customers, from the very first contact through to ongoing support and future purchases. Your customer service, customer success, customer support, marketing, sales and product development teams must help build and maintain customer relationships. 

The goal is to provide excellent service to your customers, which in turn builds loyalty and keeps them coming back for more. Every interaction a customer has with your company, from sales and marketing to customer service, contributes to their overall experience. While it may cost your business some amount to invest in building customer relations, at the end of the day, you are rewarded with a loyal customer base. 

Customer relations refers to building a long-term relationship with your customers. It isn't just about making a one-time sale. You can increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and repeat business, by focusing on good customer relations.

Customer service vs. customer relations.

In a business, keeping customers happy is important. But sometimes, the terms "customer service" and "customer relations" get thrown around interchangeably. While they have mutually beneficial relationships, there's a key difference between the two. 

Imagine customer service as the front line of your customer interaction. It's where you directly address customer inquiries, complaints, and requests.  Think of it as the team that fixes broken things– they're essential for resolving immediate issues and keeping things running smoothly.

Here are some key aspects of customer service:

  • Responding to questions, concerns, and customer complaints.
  • Focused on resolving specific issues in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Requires excellent communication, problem-solving, and technical knowledge.

On the other hand, customer relations encompasses a broad perspective. It involves building and maintaining positive relationships with your customers. From initial contact to post-purchase interactions, building trust and loyalty along the way.

Think of customer relations as building a strong bridge – it connects your company to your customers and ensures a smooth, positive experience throughout their journey.

Here's a look at what customer relations entails:

  • Anticipating customer needs and going the extra mile to exceed expectations.
  • Building and maintaining positive relationships over time.
  • Involves every department, from marketing and sales to customer support, working together to create a consistent customer experience.

Now, here's the magic part: customer service and customer relations work best together. Customers should have ready access to customer service and support teams to ensure a positive customer experience. Excellent customer service interactions contribute to customer relations. Strong customer relations lead to a more positive and helpful customer service experience.

It's a two-way street. Happy customers are more likely to be patient and understanding when issues arise. Well-trained and empowered customer success manager can turn a negative experience into a positive one, strengthening the overall customer relationship.

Benefits of positive customer relations.

Now that you know how customer relations differs from customer service, why should you prioritize it and what benefits can you gain? 

When building customer relations, organizations need to take a company-wide approach that's focused on promoting customer success. Customer relations is present in all aspects of a business, but it's most prevalent in the customer service department. With positive interactions and building strong customer relationships, you create a loyal customer base that fuels your success.

1. Customer loyalty.

When companies focus on good customer relations, it can foster customer loyalty. This means providing honest information, resolving issues fairly, and exceeding expectations. These positive experiences create a sense of security and satisfaction in customers, making them feel valued.

Positive customer relations go beyond just solving problems. It's about remembering customers, acknowledging their preferences, and personalizing interactions. This makes customers feel like they're not just another transaction, but part of a community. 

Rather than meeting expectations, it’s best to exceed them. Maybe it's a surprise upgrade, a handwritten thank-you note, or going above and beyond to solve a problem. These unexpected gestures create a lasting positive impression and a feeling of loyalty.  Customers remember companies that make them feel special. A study by Microsoft indicates that 55% of customers have higher customer service expectations every year.

Customers who have a positive relationship with a company are less likely to be swayed by competitors. They trust the company, value the experience, and are less likely to switch to a slightly lower price or flashier ad campaign.

2. Repeat business.

Repeat business is like a sweet melody to any business owner's ears, and strong customer relations create it. When customers have positive interactions with your company, they develop trust. They know they can rely on you to deliver a quality product or service, and that any issues will be handled fairly and efficiently. This trust breeds confidence, making them more likely to return for future purchases.

Let's face it, people tend to remember positive experiences more vividly.  Positive customer relations ensure those interactions are pleasant and memorable.  These good memories create a positive association with your brand, making them more likely to consider you again when they need something you offer.

Many companies leverage loyalty programs to incentivize repeat business.  Positive customer relations play a vital role here. Your customers are more likely to participate in loyalty programs,  collecting points or rewards that further encourage repeat purchases when you treat them well throughout their journey. Satisfied customers make repeat purchases and recommend your products to their friends and family.

Let's say you've had consistently positive experiences with a particular restaurant. The waiters know your order, the atmosphere is inviting, and the food is delicious.  Why go elsewhere?  Positive customer relations create a sense of convenience and familiarity that makes returning the easy and preferred choice.

3. Word-of-mouth marketing.

Positive customer relations is like a social media influencer for your business, generating free advertising through word-of-mouth marketing. People trust the opinions of friends, family, and close contacts more than traditional advertising. It creates a pool of happy customers who are more likely to recommend your product or service to their circles. These recommendations hold more weight because they come from a trusted source, driving new customers through genuine endorsements.

When customers have a delightful experience with your company, they're naturally compelled to share it.  Positive customer relations provide those positive experiences that people want to talk about.  They might rave about a helpful customer service rep, a high-quality product, or an unexpected gesture of goodwill.  

Positive word-of-mouth marketing creates a sense of social proof and boosts your brand's credibility.  When multiple people consistently share positive experiences, it assures potential customers that they're making a good choice by considering your business.

A consistent stream of positive word-of-mouth marketing paints your brand in a positive light. It showcases your commitment to customer relationships and reinforces positive brand associations.  This can lead to a more favourable brand image, making you stand out from competitors in the marketplace.

4. Reduced churn.

Reduced customer churn, or fewer customers leaving your business is great. Positive customer relations go beyond just reacting to problems. It's about anticipating customer needs and proactively addressing potential issues. You can tackle problems quickly before they escalate and lead to frustration or dissatisfaction, a major cause of churn.

Even the best companies encounter customer issues from time to time. You can turn a negative experience into a positive one, by addressing concerns promptly, fairly, and with empathy. It shows customers you care about their satisfaction and are committed to resolving issues.

Acquiring new customers is significantly more expensive than retaining existing ones. A study shows that 61% of customers stop buying from a company if they have a poor customer experience. Positive customer relations help you retain customers, reducing the need for constant customer acquisition efforts.  This frees up resources and allows you to focus on nurturing existing relationships and further improving customer satisfaction.

5. Increased customer lifetime value.

Positive customer relations are like planting a seed of loyalty that blossoms into a fruitful harvest of increased customer lifetime value. Happy customers are more responsive to upselling and cross-selling opportunities.  Positive customer relations create a foundation of trust, making them more open to suggestions and recommendations from your company.  All these can lead to maintaining stronger customer relationships and higher customer lifetime value.

Customers who have a strong emotional connection to your brand are more likely to be tolerant of occasional price increases.  Positive customer relations build brand loyalty and create a sense of value that transcends just cost.  Loyal customers understand the worth of your brand and are less likely to switch to competitors solely based on price fluctuations. On top of that, a study indicates that a 5% customer retention increase can result in a 25% boost in profit.

6. Feedback and improvement.

Positive customer relations open a two-way street of communication, allowing for valuable feedback that fuels continuous improvement. It views customers as partners, not just transactions. You encourage customers to share feedback, both positive and negative, by fostering trust and open communication.  This feedback provides valuable insights into their needs, wants, and pain points, highlighting areas where you can improve your offerings.

Instead of waiting for problems to arise and cause churn,  you can leverage feedback to identify potential issues before they escalate. This allows you to address concerns early on and continuously improve your products and services to better meet customer expectations.

By actively seeking and utilizing customer feedback, you establish a feedback loop that informs decision-making and drives continuous improvement across all aspects of your business. This ensures you're constantly evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of your customers.

3 tools to help you build positive customer relationships.

1. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

A CRM system is a software tool that helps businesses manage all their interactions and data related to customers.  Think of it as a central hub that keeps track of everything you know about your customers, and provides tools for managing customers.

These are software platforms that help you centralize and manage all your customer interactions and data.  CRMs  allow you to:

  • Keep track of contact details, purchase history, and past interactions, providing a holistic view of each customer.
  • Monitor customer touchpoints across different channels (phone, email, social media) and identify trends or areas for improvement.
  • Segment your customer base and tailor marketing messages, promotions, or support interactions based on their preferences and needs.
  • Streamline repetitive tasks like sending birthday greetings or follow-up emails, freeing up time for more personalized interactions.

They help businesses build a positive customer relationship which in turn, leads to increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, and overall business growth. Improving customer relations means your company will have higher customer retention rates. 

2. Customer feedback tools.

Customer feedback tools are digital instruments that businesses can use to gather valuable insights and opinions from their customers. This feedback helps businesses understand customer satisfaction, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately build positive customer relations. Some of the most common customer feedback tools are:

  • Survey tools: These are online questionnaires that allow you to ask customers a wide range of questions about their experience with your product, service, or brand. Surveys can be simple and quick, or more in-depth, depending on your needs.  Popular options include SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms.
  • Social media monitoring tools: These tools track brand mentions and conversations happening across various social media platforms. They allow you to see what customers are saying about your brand, identify trends in sentiment, and address any negative feedback promptly. Some popular options include Brandwatch, Sprout Social, and Hootsuite.
  • Customer satisfaction software: These tools integrate with your website or app and capture customer satisfaction ratings after interactions with your business. This could be a simple star rating system or a more detailed feedback form. Great options include  Simpu, Hotjar, Zendesk, and Qualtrics.

The key is to choose the right tools for your specific needs and implement them in a way that encourages customers to participate and share their honest feedback.

3. Communication and collaboration platforms.

Communication and collaboration platforms are digital tools that streamline communication and teamwork within a business but can also be used to connect with customers. They act as central hubs for exchanging information, sharing files, and working together on projects, fostering a more efficient and connected work environment. 

Tools like live chat and video conferencing enable instant messaging, voice calls, and face-to-face interactions, enabling smoother collaboration and faster issue resolution. Communication platforms can integrate with other business tools, automating tasks and notifications, and keeping projects moving forward efficiently.

Teamwork tools with features like task management, project boards, and shared calendars help teams stay organized, track progress, and meet deadlines collaboratively. Real-time discussions and document sharing allow teams to brainstorm ideas, share feedback, and make informed decisions collectively.

Some popular examples of communication and collaboration platforms are Slack, Asana, Trello and Zoom. Businesses can improve internal communication, foster teamwork, and ultimately enhance overall productivity and customer satisfaction with effective communication and collaboration platforms.

Keys to building customer relations, according to the CX experts

Businesses can build positive customer relationships that lead to increased customer satisfaction and long-term customer relationships that ensure customer success. By consistently striving to understand and exceed customer expectations, lasting relationships can fuel your business growth.

Focus on customer journey.

Don't make assumptions, create a customer journey map to understand a typical customer's buyer journey. Actively seek to understand your customer's wants, needs, and pain points throughout their entire journey with your brand, from initial awareness to post-purchase experience.

Identify all the ways customers interact with your brand, including your website, social media presence, customer service interactions, and in-person experiences. Ensure a consistent and positive experience across all touchpoints.

Dwayne Tunstall, a contact center leadership professional says that organizations that do not measure or understand customer journey mapping often have blind spots that impact customer relationships. Companies can identify these blindspots by creating a customer journey map that outlines the buyer's journey for a target consumer.

“Understanding this information allows an organization to address processes and/or touch points along the customer's journey in most need of improvement. If addressed efficiently, in many cases there is an immediate impact on  customer satisfaction.”

Personalization is key.

Durgesh Thumar, owner of NFC 95dot says customers love it when businesses take the time to get to know them personally. 

“Personalizing your interactions with your customers can go a long way in building a strong relationship. You can do this by addressing them by name, remembering their preferences, and engaging with them on social media.”

Don't treat all customers the same. Segment your customer base based on demographics, interests, and purchase history. This allows you to tailor your communication and marketing efforts to resonate with each segment.

Also, go beyond just a name. Use customer data to personalize greetings, recommendations, and marketing messages. This creates a feeling of connection and shows you value their individuality.

Proactive communication is essential.

Build trust by being upfront and honest in all your communication. Address any issues promptly and proactively, and keep customers informed about developments that might impact them. For example, instruct your team on using a professional communication style, practising active listening and focusing on problem-solving.

Yuliia Dudareva, a marketing and productivity expert believes communication is key for every business. 

“To maintain an effective workflow, you should constantly communicate with many people. And no matter who these people are.”

Don't wait for customers to reach out to you. Send regular updates, share valuable content, and engage customers on social media. This keeps your brand top-of-mind and fosters a sense of connection. When you connect with the target audience deeply, you are much more likely to understand their requirements, resolve their problems, and create a sense of mutual understanding with them.

Make it easy to do business with you.

Streamline your customer interactions, from making purchases to resolving issues. Ensure your website is user-friendly, and offer multiple channels for customer support (phone, email, live chat).  Don't forget to train your customer-facing employees on soft skills such as active listening, empathy, patience, etc. 

Mohammad Naias, a marketing automation expert believes businesses can interact with their clients via social networking sites that include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, in addition to through email advertising, webinars, online events, as well video chats.

“Networking via the internet increases worth, exchanges expertise, and promotes genuineness. For success, businesses ought to release out of an ongoing basis, personalize messages and prioritize taking part, respond professionally, along recognize results.”

Train your staff to be knowledgeable, friendly, and empowered to resolve customer issues efficiently. A positive customer service experience goes a long way in building relationships.

Continuously seek feedback and improve.

Use surveys, social media monitoring, and customer satisfaction tools to gather feedback from your customers. This helps you identify areas for improvement and ensure you're meeting their evolving needs.

“Uncover the root causes and identify the areas where customer experience improvements are most needed throughout the customer journey,“ says Nabil Lawani, a customer service and sales manager.

Analyze customer feedback data to identify trends and make informed decisions about improving your products, services, and overall customer experience.

Yogesh Kumar, an operations head, believes acting on feedback means listening to feedback from all channels, taking action, & making their journey smoother.


Customer relations is not about fancy tricks or one-time gestures but about building genuine connections and a long-term relationship with your customers.

You can create a positive experience that keeps your customers coming back for more, by focusing on the customer journey, prioritizing clear communication, and actively seeking feedback. They'll become your brand advocates, your cheerleaders, and the driving force behind your business success.

Happy customers are loyal customers, and loyal customers are the golden ticket to long-term business growth. Invest in your customer relationships, and watch your business grow.

Titilola Shittu

Content Writer
Titilola enjoys writing content that resonates with a target audience. With an interest in product marketing, she understands the importance of using data to provide actionable insights that help with informed decisions. You can find her listening to music or reading African literature when she's not doing anything marketing-related.

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