Most businesses love attracting new customers; they love making sales; and they love repeat sales from loyal customers. However, convincing a customer to love your business is about service, not sales.

Studies show that it’s more expensive to acquire a brand new customer than it is to generate business from an existing one. Therefore, it makes good business sense to focus on keeping your current customers happy. I think it goes even deeper than that. Customers link you to why you wanted to start a business in the first place.

If you want your customers to start loving you, here are seven tips. And now is a great time to get started.

1. Be yourself – Customers form emotional connections with people, not companies, mission statements, or press releases. That’s why if you want customers to love your business, you’ll have to be ready to reveal the people and personalities behind it. Let your customers love you, by telling them more about you…whether it’s on your blog or while talking to a customer on the phone.

2. Reward loyalty – Many businesses offer fantastic offers to attract brand new customers. But once they’ve hooked a customer, the offers disappear. For example, maybe you feel like your cable or mobile company cared more about you before you signed a contract. That’s hardly a way to develop a happy and loyal customer base. Why not try taking the opposite approach and reward your existing customers? Send your top customers a discount for future purchases, free shipping, or some kind of value-add like free training or a consult.

3. Be empathetic – The most beloved companies treat their customers like people. Each customer has a unique story, personality, and challenge to solve. The act of empathy (or walking a mile in the shoes of your customer) will help you form a connection and trusting relationship. Take some time and think about what makes each customer tick. What is their day like? What are their biggest concerns and how can you help? By gaining a deeper understanding of your customer’s perspective, you’ll be better equipped to make them happy.

4. Go above and beyond – Company surveys often ask, “Did we meet your expectations?” However, customers aren’t excited about a business that meets expectations. They don’t gush to their friends; they don’t love you. Rather than just striving to meet expectations, aim to go above and beyond. Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin brand summed it up this way: “The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” A good example here is online retailer Zappos who advertises free ground shipping, but mails out most orders overnight.

5. Say thank you – Manners really do matter. Imagine you’re checking out at a store. After ringing up your purchase, your cashier turns away and moves on to the next customer…without a thank you or any kind of acknowledgment. How would you feel? Probably offended and annoyed. Would it impact the overall impression of your shopping experience? Yes.

Show your customers that you appreciate them. Send a thank you note or email. It’s a simple gesture that takes only minutes of your time, but will say a lot about your company and how you value your customers.

6. Listen and learn – Customers will never love a company that turns a deaf ear to their needs. It’s critical that you listen to what customers are saying to you (on customer service or sales calls) as well as what they’re saying about you (on Twitter or Yelp or wherever else they give feedback). Of course, listening is just the first step. You’ve also got to respond quickly when a customer shares a complaint or compliment. Own up to any shortcomings and address issues promptly. Lastly, don’t forget to adapt your business based on what you hear in order to better meet your customers’ needs.

7. Love your customers!  – Sometimes you can’t focus too much on trying to get customers to love you; you can only love your customers and hope the feeling will become mutual. For example, I began my business because I love helping other entrepreneurs. I love the concept of the small business. And I love giving small business owners access to resources they might not be able to afford otherwise. If you don’t feel a genuine connection to your customers, you might want to consider a different line of business. Because customers know the difference between companies that love them and those that don’t.
Customers today are looking for more than just products or services. They want to engage with businesses who care about them and their community. Build relationships, show customers you care, and execute everyday and you’re more likely to win your customers’ hearts!

Editor’s Note: This was originally written and published by Nellie Akalp on GalTime.