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For many businesses, lasting customer relationships are the key to success, even above the acquisition of consistent new business. While of course the latter is important for growth, it’s been shown that the cost of acquiring new customers is five times higher than the cost of retaining existing ones, meaning loyalty is better for the bottom line.

So, I interviewed seven executives who are all accomplished in the revenue operations world, and asked them for their top tip to building customer relationships that truly last. Unsurprisingly, there was a common theme of listening to and understanding your customers, but the actionable advice and way in which they said it really is pure gold.

Because while I can try to reiterate the wise words you’re about to read, no one will say it better than these Forbes 30 Under 30, Senior Vice Presidents, and Chief Customer Evangelists (amongst other titles) do. So grab a pen, take note, and get ready to level up.

Tom Coburn: Be a Force for Good

Named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2022® New England, Tom Coburn is the co-founder and CEO of Jebbit, the world’s leading zero-party data and customer experience platform.

On how to build customer relationships that last, Coburn advised:

“Be a Force for Good. No matter your industry, always advocate for what is right. Customers will recognize that and stand by for the long-haul. The marketing industry is at an important day of reckoning due to the proliferation and misuse of consumer data that has resulted in consumer data privacy legislation in almost every country and platforms like Apple and Google implementing tracking prevention."

"Jebbit stands to be on the right side of marketing history by helping brands build direct relationships with consumers through mutual value exchanges and only asking what is needed to improve the relevancy and experience at every touchpoint. With a cookieless economy in the near future, brands will have to collect their own data - how they collect and use that data will determine the winners and losers of consumers’ trust and therefore the ability to build deep relationships that lead to longevity and loyalty.”

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Chris Curtin: Be Champions for Your Customers

Chris Curtin is the Social Media and Rewards Executive at Bank of America where he is responsible for enterprise social media strategy, Preferred Rewards and client loyalty strategies, and cross-segment execution.

With more than 20 years of experience in marketing strategy, innovation, and operations, Chris has deep expertise across disciplines. On how to build customer relationships that last, Curtin advised:

“Be champions for your customers. The customer relationship should provide value in both directions. Companies should make customers feel like they have a champion, that they are valued and appreciated for making the decisions they have as a consumer. This will help show the customer that their feedback is desired and their decision to entrust us with their finances is of utmost importance to us.”

Deborah Battaglia: Anchor into your Brand Promise

Deborah Battaglia is the Senior Vice President of Enterprise Customer Experience (CX) at Assurant, a global provider of protection products and services, and is accountable for driving and implementing a holistic Customer Experience culture and practice throughout the global Assurant enterprise.

She leads a diverse team working to develop differentiated end-to-end experiences across products and channels using voice of customer / employee and human-centered design methodologies to shape and execute strategy and project efforts.

On how to build customer relationships that last, Battaglia advised:

“Anchor into your brand promise, company purpose, and customer commitments – what is it that your business offers to customers, and what problem are you trying to solve? Or what customer need are you trying to fill? And how does the customer perceive (what expectations do they have about?) what you’ve promised them?"

"If you misjudge this, then you’ve missed the mark from the beginning. A great example of this is when Netflix pivoted from DVD delivery to streaming. That was a super hard transition for their loyalists, but they had to ask themselves, what are we delivering? And the answer was not DVDs, it was entertainment.”

Andrew Doerman: Be Authentic

Andrew Doerman is the vice president of digital distribution & strategy at Legal & General America. With more than 20 years of experience in distribution, Doerman is a collaborative and results-driven executive who drives growth across diverse business functions.

Using data and analytics coupled with extensive industry and product knowledge, he leads a team to achieve and exceed sales revenues, profitability and organizational efficiencies. On how to build customer relationships that last, Doerman advised:

“Be authentic. Our biggest strategy is being in constant communication with our customers, and the importance of this cannot be overstated. Honest and transparent communication is something that I pride myself on.”

Doug Straton: Know Your Customer’s Business

Doug Straton is the Chief Customer Evangelist at Bazaarvoice and has deep general management, marketing, sales, and strategy experience across all major global markets, in multiple categories such as personal care, food, refreshment and luxury. He has experience with powerhouse companies including Unilever, L’Oreal, LVMH, Bristol-Myers Squibb and The Hershey Company. 

On how to build customer relationships that last, Straton advised:

“First, establish a foundational level of knowledge of the customer’s business and headwinds and tailwinds behind it, be they macroeconomic factors, societal, political, environmental, categorical, whatever. Stay on top of these—if you know your customer’s reality, you’ll more likely propose solutions that will help them.”

Dave Hoekstra: Prioritize Proactive Communication

Dave Hoekstra has spent his entire professional career in customer service, but it wasn’t until he found WFM that he found his true passion. With over 20 years in WFM, Dave has gained insight into the real-world challenges of working in today’s customer service. He is one of the few people who truly gets excited when someone wants to talk about Real Time Adherence or Net Staffing reports.

On how to build customer relationships that last, Hoekstra advised:

“Prioritize Proactive Communication. Ensure your customer service team delivers proactive, high-quality CX despite chaos or unexpected meltdowns. For example, during service meltdowns, brands that reach out to customers to provide reimbursement or help before they even asked for it have a much better chance of retaining loyalty.”

Rostyk Wynnyckyj: Be Available

Rostyk Wynnyckyj is a Co-Owner and Technical Sales Engineer of LAVA Computer MFG Inc., a family-run Ukrainian-Canadian company, which originally focused on serial and parallel cards and adapters for the personal computer market.

On how to build customer relationships that last, Wynnyckyj advised:

“Be available: Communication is key to building lasting customer relationships. Whether it's over the phone, via email, or in person, making yourself available to answer questions and provide support can go a long way in building trust and establishing a strong rapport with your customers. At LAVA, we have a rule—the phone should never ring more than once and if a call is missed, it will be returned the same day. We cannot keep the customer waiting.”

Build Lasting Connection

In essence, building lasting customer relationships, as advised by seasoned executives, hinges on understanding and responding to customer needs. The approaches shared in this article not only emphasize trust and mutual value, but also genuine engagement as the cornerstones of strong, enduring customer relationships.

I’d love to know, what strategies or tactics have you found most effective for building lasting customer relationships? How long have some customers been with your business? Be sure to share your insights with us either in the comments or on LinkedIn. While you’re here, subscribe to The RevOps Team newsletter so you don’t miss a beat.

By Phil Gray

Philip Gray is the COO of Black and White Zebra and Founding Editor of The RevOps Team. A business renaissance man with his hands in many departmental pies, he is an advocate of centralized data management, holistic planning, and process automation. It's this love for data and all things revenue operations landed him the role as resident big brain for The RevOps Team.

With 10+ years of experience in leadership and operations in industries that include biotechnology, healthcare, logistics, and SaaS, he applies a considerable broad scope of experience in business that lets him see the big picture. An unapologetic buzzword apologist, you can often find him double clicking, drilling down, and unpacking all the things.