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In B2B sales, retaining customers is one of the most cost-effective marketing steps you can take. It costs an estimated five to ten times more to gain new customers than it does to retain existing customers, according to research. If you’re like many companies, you attempt to retain customers through various forms of customer satisfaction measurement and customer loyalty programs, but to what effect? If you have been seeing decent or high customer satisfaction marks from your customers, yet you feel that your loyalty programs aren’t retaining these same customers, it may be time to revisit your strategy.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Programs: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Customer satisfaction and loyalty go hand-in-hand, but satisfaction doesn’t imply that a customer will remain loyal. Measuring customer satisfaction can help you improve your loyalty programs, but too often, the customer satisfaction surveys are implemented in silos or are separated from loyalty and retention programs. To create truly effective customer loyalty programs, you need to integrate the full process―from measuring customer satisfaction to tweaking and improving how you maintain relationships with customers and win their loyalty. Customer satisfaction and loyalty should be two sides of the same coin. Let’s explore how you can create a more holistic program so that your high customer satisfaction scores will actually translate to customer loyalty.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Programs Should Start at the Top

Too often, customer satisfaction and loyalty programs are not managed at high enough levels―instead, they are delegated to only one department, such as sales and marketing. When customer satisfaction and loyalty programs are left in one department, the person leading the program rarely has enough authority to work across programs, resulting in uncoordinated touchpoints and a fragmented approach. When this is the case, customers will never receive the true attention, support, and follow-up that they deserve.

Therefore, the first step in creating a truly successful customer satisfaction and loyalty program is to appoint a Chief Customer Officer (or similar position). This person should have authority to work across departments, make high-level decisions, and integrate efforts across teams. All of the customer satisfaction and loyalty programs will be centralized under this one department, ensuring that there is consistency, no redundancy, and that every satisfaction and loyalty program is measured the same way.

Make Meaningful Benchmarks and Measure with the Same Yardstick

How are satisfaction and loyalty measured at your company? Disparate surveys and measurement tools result in department biases and in-fighting. The goal of the Chief Customer Officer is to break down the walls and implement a holistic program that puts the customer first―across every department in the organization.

To do this, the Chief Customer Officer needs to establish one system that will be used consistently across every team to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Frequently, departments will start to develop their own standards, which results in fiefdoms and inaccurate results. To set a new standard, the Chief Customer Officer’s team will set a benchmark so that they can gauge improvement, and then implement the same surveys, measurement tools, and interpretation for every survey and loyalty program.

Create a Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Program That Covers All of the Bases

Your customer satisfaction approach needs to go broader than just asking customers if they are “satisfied” with your service or product. Create a survey program that not only asks customers if they are satisfied, but that also asks if customers are loyal and if they would advocate for your company.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey is a popular way to measure loyalty, but you can also use other tools as well; the important point here is to dig deeper when you talk to customers―go beyond “satisfaction.”

 Additionally, don’t rely on surveys alone. Gauge customer loyalty through channels that include face-to-face customer visits, online communities, your social media pages, customer interviews, and customer council and advisory boards. The more comprehensive and specific the feedback is, the better chance you have of improving your loyalty programs. Let the customers guide the way―but give them plenty of ways to express their opinions.

Pay Attention to All Feedback, and Share the Feedback Company-Wide

Positive, brand-loving, loyalty-rich feedback is not the only response you should be hunting for when surveying, interviewing, and monitoring your customer loyalty programs. Pay just as much (if not more) attention to negative and neutral feedback. Often what customers aren’t saying can be more telling than what they do say. Sometimes when customers have a good personal relationship with your sales staff, they may be hesitant to give negative feedback or provide an honest assessment. Probe for authentic feedback and let your customers know that you appreciate their criticism―it only helps you improve.

An added benefit to having the customer satisfaction and loyalty programs housed under a Chief Customer Officer is that the department can be unbiased when receiving feedback. Instead of hiding negative feedback or skewing results, the department can look objectively at the scores and implement company-wide changes that address the deficits.

Customer Loyalty Programs Are a System―Not a Singular Effort

When soliciting customer satisfaction feedback and creating loyalty programs, keep in mind that your program needs to be seen as an entire system, not simply a singular effort that is dropped after you reach your goals. Customer satisfaction and loyalty programs are ongoing efforts that need to be monitored, enhanced, and tailored to match your various customers and their needs.

Measure and Communicate the Value of Your Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty Programs

Finally, when building and maintaining your customer satisfaction and loyalty programs, remember that measuring results helps you prove and improve your loyalty programs. Communicate results on a frequent basis to your team to add motivation―either to increase or to keep up their efforts. When measuring your customer satisfaction and loyalty program results, break down the evaluation into three sections:

  • Overall program.
  • Individual activity.
  • Specific customer accounts.

The more satisfied your customers are, the more likely they will remain loyal, but if you’re not accurately measuring their satisfaction levels―and tying it to your loyalty programs―you’re putting in a lot of effort that may not lead to long-lasting customers. Don’t create loyalty programs in a vacuum, without a clear view of how your customers truly feel, and don’t let your customer satisfaction and loyalty programs be the responsibility of just one department.

Prioritize the programs by creating a specific Chief Customer Officer to oversee the efforts, and standardize how you measure and develop programs. By making these efforts, you’ll transform how customers are treated in your company, and you’ll retain the customers you’ve worked so hard to attract.

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Jodi Beuder

About Author Jodi Beuder

Jodi is a Marketing and Customer Experience fanatic. Some might say "guru", but she prefers it the other way around, as there’s always something to learn and grow as it relates to Marketing and the Customer Experience, and how each is connected to one another. In the past three years, Jodi has dedicated her career to thought leadership in both realms through her work at MHI Global, and has earned honors as Top 100 Customer Success Influencer from Mindtouch, Top 15 Most Influential Customer Service Experts To Follow on Twitter from GetApp, and Top 50 Contact Center Thought Leader on Twitter from ICMI. MHI Global is a TSIA Program Alliance Partner.