Customer Experience

Why Happy Customers Don’t Become Repeat Customers — and How to Get Them Back

August 24, 2017

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This article was written by Brandon Carter, a customer engagement and loyalty writer and analyst for Access Development. Read more of his articles over on the Access Loyalty Blog.

Movies and novels throughout history have convinced us that there is such a thing as “love at first sight.”

And you know what: it’s true!

People do randomly lock eyes from across a crowded room, sparking instant passion and the shared knowledge that they’re meant to be together forever.

Seriously, there’s science revealing the numerous judgments our brains have evolved to make within the first few milliseconds of meeting someone.

So yes, it’s real.

It also only happens for a tiny fraction of the population. Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, after all.

For the rest of us, lasting relationships and affinity are built over time. They require ongoing effort, trust, and a genuine connection.

The same is true of business relationships and how consumers decide which brands they seek out over others.

Why Don’t Happy Customers Become Loyal Customers?

Every day, consumers engage with dozens of brands. Buying a cup of coffee, picking up groceries, even reading a message from a brand on social media.

Most of these are positive interactions, or at worst, neutral.

These provide an opportunity to earn that instant, passionate connection.

It rarely happens. Happy, satisfied customers come and go all the time, but rarely return.

2014 Nielsen survey revealed that 78 percent of consumers don’t consider themselves loyal to a particular brand. 30 percent of people change brands often because they feel like it, according to a GfK report.

People are distracted and have a wealth of options for every purchase we make. Affinity doesn’t even cross their minds.

This lack of loyalty costs businesses billions of dollars. Repeat customers spend more frequently, and they’ll spend as much as 67 percent more than new ones, according to a BIA/Kelsey study.

Devotion and affinity aren’t just nice things for a business to have; they’re essential to scaling growth and profitability.

Most customers that engage with a business are happy and satisfied, but they may never come back. Here’s how to change that.

How to Turn a Happy Customer Into a Repeat Customer

Here’s the problem: most businesses are built for love at first sight. They put out a good product, serve it up at a fair price, make it convenient to buy, and hope that’ll be enough to hook the customer.

As you know now, that rarely works. The key to generating repeat transactions and loyalty is a matter of connection. At the most basic tactical level, that means you need to try and secure an ongoing communication channel with every customer.

That could be a loyalty program, text club, even a social media follow will suffice. Try to earn multiple connections. People get information from a lot of sources, and they’re pretty good at filtering out e-mail.

What matters is you have at least one connection with a customer and some way of building on a positive first experience.

The best time to ask is at the point of sale, where they’ve already made up their mind to buy from you. Incentivize them with an extra gift, if necessary. The potential payoff is worth it.

Customer Feedback Cheat Sheet

What to Offer Your Connected Customers

Now that you’ve got a connection with each customer, it’s time to go to work. Here are four options for what to say and do with your new open channel of communication:


As in any relationship, it’s important for each side to get to know each other and discover common ground. Help your customers learn the “who” and the “why” behind your business. Introduce your brand values and what you do for people like themselves. If your business focuses on a specific region, briefly share your history there and what you do to contribute to that community.

If your business has a larger base, then dial in on common traits and desires your customers have. Some companies that do this well are REI and Patagonia, which cater to the outdoors crowd and their desire for sustainability and environmental friendliness.

Open Dialogue

Of course, every customer communications channel is a two-way channel. Don’t simply watch for customer feedback, though. Proactively seek it and ask.

This does two things. One, if the experience was positive it reminds the customer about it.

Two, if the experience is bad, you learn about it and receive a chance to fix it.

Resolving issues is one of the greatest, most underrated paths to customer loyalty a business can take. According to BI Intelligence, it takes 12 positive customer experiences to negate the poor impression left by one unresolved, bad experience.

Most of the time, you won’t get even a second chance. Be proactive and resolve any issues before they fester.

Add Value

Get transparent with your business and turn your customers into experts. The better they know your product or service, the more they’ll use it. The more they use it, the more personally valuable and essential it becomes.

Try tutorials, case studies, even user communities. If a customer is doing something different or unique with your service, and others can benefit from that knowledge, share it out!

A company that does a great job with this is WD-40. One of the reasons so many households have cans of the legendary lubricant hanging around is it does so much more than just lubricate. WD-40 embraces these unintended uses of their product and benefits as a result.


This is what most brands use their communications to do. Except, “invite” is interpreted as “sell more stuff.”

There’s absolutely a place for sales. We’re aiming for repeat visits and long-term loyalty, so it must be done wisely. Sometimes, asking for a sale isn’t the right invitation to extend.

If you’re collecting data on a customer, use it to personalize your pitch. If they’ve reached the general end of your product’s lifecycle, invite them back in to make another purchase. If they’re engaged and appear to be happy, ask them for a review or a referral to a friend. You can even invite them to help develop your next product, or test out your marketing materials.

Focus on the other three areas first, and solidify the relationship as much as you can. Then, when the time is right, ask them to take the next step with your brand.

One Happy Experience After Another

Your business is probably doing fine by most customers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever come back or refer you to their friends. You don’t have to stand there and watch them go in and out. Create a connection and give them more than one positive experience.

Whether your business is an everyday stop like a coffee shop or or a less-regular service such as realty, most of your customers are going to need multiple positive engagements before they become a regular.

True, a few may fall in love at first sight. Just don’t get wed to that idea, and never take a happy customer for granted.

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