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In 2014, we've seen the continued rise of the empowered customer. From the arrival of privacy-conscious social networks to the rise of the collaborative economy, customers have more choices and more opportunities to be heard than ever.

In his recent Entrepreneur article, Vision Critical Founder and Chief Product Officer Andrew Reid offers advice for companies on how to keep customers coming back in the year ahead. He argues creating quality products and delivering exceptional services won't be enough in the new year because customers know that their true value goes well beyond their wallets. "Companies will need to consider the true value of their customer relationships and provide meaningful value in return, he writes.

In a world where customers continue to expect more from companies, Andrew believes companies need to do the following 4 things to keep the attention of customers alive and well.

  1. Keep it human.

Get customers feedback and insight on an ongoing basis. Chico's knows this very well: Using its secure, cloud-based customer community, it engages thousands of its customers regularly. Recently, the leading retailer sent pants with a new length to its community members and learned that women didn't know which shoes to pair the product with. That insight drove the final creative, which featured the pants in head-to-toe outfits. Chico's example shows that delivering a personal touch provides customer intelligence that can drive business results.

  1. Customize.

Customization has never been easier or more widespread. As Andrew writes in the article, "People want products that seem original and cater to individual wants and needs.

There is money in customization. Bain & Company says 25 to 30% of people are interested in customized products. Companies like Converse, Nike and BMW have increased their capacity to customize offerings for customers. Expect that trend to accelerate in 2015.

  1. Reward your customers.

Make your customers feel special by rewarding them for their purchases and feedback. Offer exclusive perks to your top customers. Andrew also says today's empowered customer craves status. "Clout encourages friendly competition, creates a sense of ownership and keeps customers coming back for more.

  1. Entertain.

Red Bull's transformation from an energy drink company to a content powerhouse is a masterclass for companies that want to engage today's distracted customer. Andrew adds, "No matter the industry, the entertainment factor is critical to building a brand that can successfully attract new customers, retain existing ones and deliver a lasting, multidimensional experience.

Andrew's key point is that creating solid customer relationships is the first step to keeping customers coming back in 2015. As we've mentioned in our white paper, The Customer Relationship: Your Last Competitive Advantage, treating customers as partners provides the insight companies need to increase revenue, decrease churn and stand out in the market. Download the white paper to learn how you can harness your company's most valuable asset in 2015 and in the years ahead.

The Human Side of Product Innovation

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