Do a quick search and you’ll see that “The Year of the Customer” was declared for 2020, 2021, and now again for 2022. So I may not be going out on a limb here, but…you’ll never be out of step if you focus on turning your customers into Lustomers™,  or those invested in your success because of how you help them succeed.

To help you get started, here are a few things to look out for among your customer base and a couple of resources you can use to stay a step ahead.

1. Transparency counts more than ever before.

Pandemic realities, geopolitics, trade wars, and tariffs affect nearly every industry on the planet. Whatever the reason, any time you cannot meet a customer’s expectations for service levels, support responsiveness, or delivery commitments, you need to connect with them using both empathy (“I understand your frustration.”) and compassion (“I’ve got your back and I’m here for you until we fix this.”)

Set expectations upfront and be honest about the possibility that things may not go exactly as scripted. This way, if things do go sideways, grace will often be granted by customers if they have been prepared. Let them know they are not alone—no one wants to feel that they have uniquely been inconvenienced. The more you know about their expectations for your product or services, what part of their life or business operations are dependent on their delivery, the better you will be able to adjust, prioritize, and show how much you care.

2. Customers give input whether you invite it or not.

The travel and retail industries know this best, but it’s everywhere and the stakes are high. Fair or not, customers can take to social media to let the world know of their dissatisfaction and frustration. You can get lambasted and at minimum will need to address concerns in a public forum.

Are you giving your customers an easy way to share frustrations directly with you, so they don’t go public first? As a manager once told me when I was in a sticky situation with a customer early in my corporate career, “I don’t care if you cause an explosion, I just want it to be controlled and I want to know about it before it happens.”

Are your customer support/customer success professionals trained in the art of “bomb defusing,” savvy at empathy and compassion as well as empowered to provide make-goods? Do you have an executive engagement program so top customers have a direct line to your leaders?

3. Feeling connected never goes out of style.

No matter how loyal, every customer can leave if they wish. Given a general bias to stay with a vendor, however, your chance to set yourself apart and protect your installed base depends on how well you use your communications, creative programs, and your culture to turn your customers into lustomers. My new eBook, Love & Profit: 10 Ways to Turn Your Customers into Lustomers can help. Download it today for actionable steps you can take immediately as well as prompts for further discussion.

4. Every part of the customer experience needs to get easier.

Do you study your customers? Do you know what they think of you each time they engage? From how seekers find you to become prospects, then journey from prospect to target and target to customer (or not—you should learn from your losses, too), and then in all they ways they experience you from sales to marketing to support, finance, operations, shipping and receiving—are you removing friction and waste from every interaction?

The same question applies to all your platforms. You have a website, is it easy to navigate? If you have an app, is it intuitive and a joy to use? If sales are done in person, virtually, on the phone, or in a retail setting, are they all equally available and is information shared among all who might interact with your customer?

Don’t miss opportunities to ask customers how you’re doing and how they like the experience. Take their input to heart and act on it.

5. Never stop learning.

Shameless plug time—we can help. 3C is hosting 10 webinars in 2022:

Join any or all to connect with others who care about customer connection, learn from me and teach me, and hear how to continue to hone your craft. If you are in sales, marketing, customer support, or a leader anywhere in your organization who cares about customers, you’ll find your people at our events.

If you’re ready to go deeper, join our Get the Message! Roundtable, starting on February 7 and meeting every first Monday of the month thereafter. Every month will feature a group meeting for learning and peer-driven problem solving, a 1:1 meeting for each member with me or my colleague Christina Brennan, unlimited email support, and more.

Customers have never had more power in commercial relationships, so it’s up to all of us who know the value of building customer ❤️ to ensure we move them from customer to repeat customer, regular customer, loyal customer, fan, advocate, and yes, Lustomer. You’ve got this, and of course 3C can help.