At any given moment, someone is trying to earn something from someone. Whether it’s trust, loyalty respect, even love, it’s the intangibles that people desire but can never buy.

Extra MileI used to believe that the highest honor a product or service could receive was to achieve “raving fan” status. This status level is when customers were knock down, drag out loyal and would do anything to help your product or service get noticed and bought. That’s not the case anymore. Customers, as humans, are fickle and are so empowered today that they expect extraordinary, over-the-top experiences that rock their world. Nothing less will do. Gone are the days where feedback was kept quiet and experiences were collected around a review form. Today, your customer’s comments are transparent to your competitors, making it easier for them to publicly see your pain points. Comparisons are easier to make and product switching happens faster than ever. Customers are ready to switch unless they have one thing…. an undying relationship with a person or people who made them feel uniquely special. So then the question becomes, how do you scale personalization of these human relationships? I’m a big believer in automating the right things, but one thing you will never be able to do is automate relationships.

Here are four ways I recommend connecting with today’s fickle customers to earn their trust, loyalty and respect:

1) Create a “Thank You” Department – there is a difference between customer service and thanking people. Start thanking people for being a customer before they hit customer service. Give them something to start liking about you before anything happens to make them not.

2) Your Place or Mine? Often times, brands and companies use their own communities and groups to get communication to come to them. I don’t care how large you are, the conversation is everywhere. Get off your wall and start talking to people on theirs.

3) Find your VIPseveryone is an influencer on something. Find out who they are and what they care about and make them a part of a group that entitles them to something so totally special and unique. Give them bragging rights. But also plan on listening, it’s a two-way street!

4) For the Love of God, Reply – you’d think this was fundamental but it’s not. Have you ever shared your comments with another human over email and they simply never responded? Most brands I come into contact with are afraid to reply back, because if they reply back to one then they think they have to reply back to everyone. Not true! There are unique conversations that do not deserve to be dismissed. From a consumer’s point of view, the courage it takes to say something only to not hear back, knocks every relationship down before it begins.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Consumers today have the highest of expectations. But it doesn’t take massive software, complicated strategies or tons of people to meet them. Just be human and meet them where they are; listen, respond, have a conversation, and you’ll create customers for life. (tweetable)