A smiling woman business owner talks to a male customer while holding up a small container.
Good customer service is about making customers feel valued and satisfied, which will encourage them to want to do business with you. — Getty Images/Maskot

Customers are loyal to brands and businesses that provide great service and whose products are tailored to their specific needs. In fact, according to a Zendesk survey, 81% of consumers say a positive customer service experience increases their chances of making another purchase.

Furthermore, according to a Salesforce survey, 66% of consumers expect businesses to understand their customers' needs and expectations, and 82% believe businesses should be able to satisfy customer wants and preferences.

"In a fast-paced, competitive market, customers like to feel acknowledged," said Stephanie Pouse, Managing Partner of The Brahma Group. "By creating a positive experience around your brand, you increase the probability of customers reinvesting, recommending, and staying loyal to your business."

Read on for six key customer service tactics that can help increase loyalty, happiness, and, ultimately, revenue.

Be responsive

Mark Kohlenberg, Founder and CEO of Moral Code, says consumers want to patronize and recommend brands that invest in a higher level of customer service.

"Customer service can be a huge competitive advantage that not only increases sales but helps define a brand as customer-focused," Kohlenberg told CO—.

To this end, brands should aim to be responsive, timely, and, most importantly, genuine, he added.

Investing in software that records customer conversations and interactions to gain insights is one way to help reduce customer service response times. Use email autoresponders to notify customers that their email was received and will be addressed, set time-based email alerts, and use priority-level tags to help avoid lost emails and delayed response times.

In addition, templates and text shortcuts can help staff members become more efficient by shortening response times and omitting custom solutions. Finally, streamline processes by automating manual tasks using software integrations, and continuously invest in your staff’s knowledge and skills.

[Read: How to Boost Customer Retention and Drive Repeat Business]

Give them a gift

Depending on the type of business you operate, strategic gifting can encourage customers to buy a greater amount more often and refer other customers to you.

"When strategic gifting is done with the right intention, at the right time, and with the right gift, there are few other ways to make such a lasting impression to your customers," said Lewis Goldstein, President of Blue Wind Marketing. "It's a genuine way of showing appreciation ... [and] they will want to refer you … without you even asking."

The right gift with the proper message reminds customers of your company and brand, and if they are impressed, you will be their first option for future purchases. Choose premium gifts for VIP clients and free content for your general audience, with a personal touch for each.

Customer service can be a huge competitive advantage that not only increases sales but helps define a brand as customer-focused.

Mark Kohlenberg, Founder and CEO of Moral Code

Leverage technology

Technology has changed many business operations in recent years, and customer service is no exception. Davina Farahi, Founder of Shaya, recommended leveraging instant messaging and chat technology to better serve your customers.

"There are applications that allow you to create sales orders in your chat conversation so you can walk a customer through a sale," said Farahi. "If you don't want to pay for software, you can try selling through Facebook Messenger or Instagram messaging by taking down the order information and inputting it yourself to create the order."

Customers often prefer live chat for three reasons: It is fast, allowing for immediate support and quick resolutions; it is personalized, the customer can interact without distractions, such as waiting on hold or having to type information into a keypad; and the agent can immediately help the customer, making them their top priority. Finally, live chat is simple to use — there is no need to phone the company, and all of your information is usually there and ready for the agent.

Put yourself in customers’ shoes and address negative experiences quickly

Remember, your customers are humans too. Don't forget to think about their feelings, needs, and motivations when you're pushing out a new product or service — and always consider the benefit to them, said Pouse.

"By keeping your customers at the forefront of your mind, it will reflect in your ability to grow and maintain a customer base," she added. "Continuously put yourself in their shoes. Would you be satisfied with the current structure and/or customer service? If not, you know something has to change."

Customer complaints are an inevitable part of business, so it’s important to have a procedure in place for handling them. Taking appropriate and swift action to turn a negative experience into a positive one can help your business stand out from competitors, strengthen your brand, and build valuable customer relationships.

Consider complaints as opportunities for growth. Document complaints and train staff on how to manage difficult discussions, and follow up with your internal team during and after the process.

Listen and use soft skills such as empathy throughout the process — and follow up with unhappy customers to ensure they are satisfied. Evaluate customer feedback to diagnose the cause of problems for future reference, and consider conducting customer surveys to pinpoint areas for improvement.

Make returns a seamless process

Today's consumers expect free shipping and returns thanks to retail giants like Amazon. From a business perspective, absorbing that cost is a small price to pay to keep customers happy.

"As long as the consumer isn't abusing the privilege and the product is returned in salable condition, take it back [for free] and keep the customer," explained Kohlenberg. "Too many customers are lost and end up telling their friends and family over botched return experiences."

A customer with a negative or difficult return experience is unlikely to purchase from you again. To provide a positive return experience, establish a simple return policy and communicate it clearly to customers, and ensure your internal processes are streamlined.

Additionally, process returns immediately and offer multiple options for returned items. You might also consider using a fulfillment center for efficient return management. Keep customers informed with logistical tracking, and don't forget to follow up with customers afterward to ensure their ongoing satisfaction.

[Read: Want to Improve Customer Retention? Try These 3 Expert Strategies]

Offer loyalty programs

Everyone loves free stuff and discounts for being a loyal customer. Loyalty programs have been proven to boost customer retention and increase sales from repeat customers because they already trust your business.

"Loyalty programs are important as a method to keep coming back and also to reward customers for their loyalty to a brand," said Kohlenberg. "Airlines with frequent flyer programs and Amazon Prime are great examples of this."

It is important to select a customer loyalty program that is compatible with your business. First, identify the primary goals of your loyalty program, as well as your target audience and what drives them to make purchases. From there, customize your program and build incentives, then promote your program to make existing and prospective customers aware of it.

Once your loyalty program is established, keep it consistent, avoiding drastic changes when possible — however, if changes are unavoidable, communicate them clearly to program participants. Continuously track success by gathering engagement statistics and revenue reports to help make changes as needed. It is also helpful to use surveys and customer events to collect feedback.

Your customers make your business, so it makes good sense to be "customer-obsessed."

"Treat them well so they will keep coming back and want to tell others about your business," Goldstein said.

[Read: Start. Run. Grow. Mastering the Customer Experience]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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