I first wrote a white paper with this title 20 years ago. It was all about how organisations could improve relationships with their customers by offering the right level and quality of service early on in the relationship.

The paper was based on my own experience of having a small newspaper distribution business where I had a team who delivered early morning newspapers and magazines to over 8000 subscribers on a weekly basis. I ran a customer service desk from home and invited subscribers to call me if they didn’t receive their morning delivery. I would then get in my car and re-deliver the paper to them, no questions asked – I trusted them. Then I would call them to make sure that they had received the paper and were happy. It was at this stage that our “relationship” began.

It soon became the phone call they wanted and the actual re-delivery of the paper was of secondary importance – because they were interacting with me and not just receiving the product. They knew they were important to me. They were loyal to me and the service I offered and this loyalty would stretch to other areas of my business.

In those days (we are going back 25 years) there was not a lot of up-selling and cross-selling to be done, but I always got the commission for collecting and processing their annual renewal, and they always called me as the first point of contact.

Simple. Then why is it so hard to get and retain loyal customers nowadays? Is it the customer service they receive? My philosophy was that I would much rather sort out any issue at the outset and make sure I had a contented customer. This way I also got to know my customers and I would recognise their phone numbers and greet them by name. I’d be happy to hear from them and sort out their queries straight away.

Whether it’s a real person, an automated system or indeed a chatbot, loyalty seems to have morphed into not wanting the hassle of change. But as business owners, are we content with that?

I would say “no” and many of our customers aren’t content with that either. They want to be treated like your business relies on them, which of course it does. In a nutshell, they just want to be loved.