width=271Building customer loyalty and strong customer retention is getting harder and harder. The customer has raised the bar, set new rules and expects the unexpected! Pay attention! Losing customers today is swift, fast and constant!

I have recently been dealing with the DMV, discount travel sites, airlines, car companies, corporations and organizations that make it impossible for me to consider promoting them in a testimonial way. They completely time sucked me and it was anything but a colossal waste of time. GRRR...

Why put phone numbers on the site when they are always busy?

I stayed on hold as an experiment for 45 minutes and then a recorded message came on that said they were not there and to call back another time!

Why refer people to another site when they don't know anything and then they refer you back to the site you came from?

Here are 5 simple, basic and time tested practices that can make customer experiences pleasant and effective, even for state, county, government and corporate companies and turn them into 'testimonials relationships.

First impressions. Make sure whoever greets customers,  answers the phone, or fields any interaction is pleasant, courteous and positive.

Faster delivery and response. How impressive and unexpected is speed in responding to and helping customers? Yes, it's an investment in training but it pays off big time.

Real people real conversations. People crave real people, in their own country to speak to when they have a question or problem. Stop the insanity of thinking we are OK with anything but.

The bar tender principle. Know something about your customer either before or during the interaction, so we don't have to re-tell the issue or story. Keep your files updated on prior conversations.

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Anticipate needs and wants. Noticing a pattern to your inquiries and complaints? Fix them, look into them, research them before they happen again.

Consistent brand and customer service language. Again, train your people to consistently know anything and everything they need to about your company, products or services or have someone designated who does.

Right people for the team. Don't just put bodies in seats, on the phones or out in the field. At least make sure they have some appreciation for what you do, what you sell and why you are in business. Trust me, we know!

Who are the companies that consistently impress you with how they serve you and why?

Who fails the test and why?

What are some of your practices that build testimonial relationships?

About the Author: Deborah Shane delivers business education and professional skill development specializing in women in business, those in career transition, sales and personal and social brand strategy and integration. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.