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University of Sunderland

What are the key elements of a strong customer relationship?

Posted on: November 24, 2023
Happy woman, barista and serving customer at cafe for service, payment or order on counter at coffee shop. African person, waitress or employee in small business restaurant helping client at checkout

Strong, lasting customer relationships – in which customers are satisfied, feel valued and understood, have their needs met, and return time after time to purchase – underpin much of a business’s long-term viability and success.

Statistics shared by Zendesk, who design global customer service solutions, reinforce the importance of great, customer-centric service and relationships in driving business growth:

  • Companies that focus on customer experience (CX) see revenue increases of 80%
  • 49% of customers who left a brand to which they’d been loyal in the past 12 months blamed poor CX
  • 80% of organisations expect to remain competitive based on CX
  • 60% of customers state that personalised purchasing experiences would make them repeat customers
  •  72% of customers expect immediate service and 64% will spend more if issues are resolved seamlessly.

Clearly, increasing customer satisfaction – and delivering positive experiences throughout the customer journey – should be key focuses for business owners and leaders.

What are the main elements of excellent customer service?

When was the last time you received great customer service? What was it about the service you received that made it stand out? Perhaps your enquiry was handled promptly and professionally, you received highly personalised service that went the extra mile, or you were impressed by the knowledge and expertise of a customer service rep during a follow-up call.

Great customer service is multi-faceted; it can look slightly different to all of us. However, there are some universal approaches that can help to meet, and exceed, customer expectations:

Omnichannel solutions

Customer service teams who operate across multiple channels – for example, taking phone calls, responding to social media mentions, and monitoring email and live chat queries – are more likely to resolve issues faster, handle more issues, and reduce customer wait times. Put strategies in place that enable customers to connect via their preferred channels, and customer support teams to offer seamless, integrated automation and transition between modes of communication.

Customer-centric approach

The best customer service places customers at the heart of everything and spans all touchpoints across a buying journey. Authentic customer-centricity goes far beyond customer service; it means developing meaningful products and services that customers will use, ensuring any strategic decisions are aligned with customer needs, and everything in between.


Often, the communication and interactions we receive can make or break our overall experience, and opinion of, a particular brand or business. Open, friendly, professional, empathetic, and consistent communication is the cornerstone of front-line customer service. Make sure any ways in which customers can make contact – phone numbers, email addresses, chatbots and social handles – are easy to find and accessible. This is especially important when customers are reporting issues in order to prevent situations from escalating.


To stand out in saturated marketplaces, more businesses are tailoring their product, service and experience options to meet individual customer needs and preferences. To nurture a loyal customer base, businesses must understand who they are, their past purchasing behaviour, what they like and dislike, and what products and services would enhance their lives. Building this knowledge base relies on collecting and using insights from customer data.

Empowering customers

Many customers are happy – and actively prefer – finding information and sorting any issues for themselves. Offering self-service functionality is a great way to meet customer needs, streamline processes, and relieve pressure on customer service team members. This might include implementing social messaging, chatbots, knowledge banks, and community forums.

These examples provide a snapshot of the sorts of things businesses must think about if they’re serious about enhancing their customer relations.

How can businesses adopt a more customer-centric approach?

Ultimately, this will depend on what the business is already doing – and what their customer feedback is telling them. A customer-centric approach represents an ongoing commitment to exceeding customer expectations, and businesses should be prepared to continuously evolve and iterate in line with these.

Begin by thoroughly understanding your customers, including their needs, pain points, and buying journeys. This information can then be used to reflect on current business processes, practices and approaches, and make required adjustments that improve the customer experience. Data and technology are highly valuable in gathering feedback, personalising interactions, and enhancing products and services.

Offer speedy, proactive and helpful customer service by investing in training for customer service teams, optimising key processes, and using technology to address the customer issue in the fastest, most convenient and effective way. While it’s critical for those in customer-facing roles to prioritise customer satisfaction, true customer-centric cultures are those which are embedded in every aspect of the organisation. They impact product development, leadership decisions, ways of working, hiring practices, operations, and everything else.

What is customer experience management?

How does a customer feel about the service you offer? Is there anything you could be doing better?

Customer relationship management (CRM) – which is concerned with using CRM software to track customers, drive sales, and deal with issues – is not the same as customer experience management (CEM or CXM). While both are integral to increasing new customer engagement and customer retention, CEM focuses on a broader, holistic approach to improving customer experience as a whole. By monitoring customer interactions across all workflows, channels and touchpoints, it gathers data – from, for example, surveys and feedback – and uses these insights to make improvements and adjustments which enhance customer relationships. By understanding customer perspectives, behaviours and motivations, CEM can optimise customer service and build customer loyalty.

Learn how to meet customer needs and grow your customer base

Develop as a highly effective leader, manager and marketer with the University of Sunderland’s online MSc Management with Marketing programme.

Whether you’re driving growth within an existing organisation or launching your own venture, gain the skills, knowledge and experience needed to succeed through highly flexible, online learning that suits you. You’ll gain in-depth understanding of how to bring products to market and design impactful marketing strategies and campaigns, underpinned by critical skills in business leadership and management. You’ll explore a wide range of engaging topics, spanning cross-cultural management, entrepreneurship, leadership, international marketing management and communications, trade and operations, human resource management, and more.

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