We've all heard the amazing stories of businesses that "surprise and delight" customers, like the airline that slyly asked passengers what they wanted for Christmas as they boarded their plane, then had those gifts waiting for them when the customers arrived at their destination.

These initiatives are certainly great ways to go above and beyond for customers—and they're just plain fun for all involved. But the customer experience must be more than an occasional highlight. A good relationship with your customer base really boils down to day-in, day-out engagement.

So how do you keep the momentum going after you've gone above and beyond for your customers?

As I write this, the company I help lead is in the midst of just such a situation. Earlier this year, we hosted the Hearing Innovation Expo, an event for customers of Starkey Hearing Technologies, where I'm senior vice-president. The Expo took place in Las Vegas and drew more than 3,400 hearing-health professionals from around the world. We pulled out all the stops: world-renowned speakers, including President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Guy Kawasaki, Simon Sinek, Carly Fiorina, and more. Sessions on cutting-edge innovations in our industry. A private concert by Brad Paisley to close out the four-day event. It was, in a word, remarkable. Our customers told us in no uncertain terms that they were delighted by the entire experience.

The event no doubt went a long way toward building enthusiasm and cementing our customer relationships, but now that it's over we must work to keep that connection with them going strong. All year. Without the shine of former presidents and country stars to help. We set the bar extremely high.

Luckily, we've focused on customer experience long enough to know that the seemingly small day-to-day interactions with customers are ultimately just as important as the big gestures. By following a few basic guidelines, you can keep your customers satisfied and engaged 365 days a year, whether or not you employ show-stopping "surprise and delight" moments.

1. Listen

Do not assume you know what your customers want and need. So how do you get that information? You ask, and then you listen.

Be thoughtful about the questions you ask, and make sure you have the resources in place to capture the valuable information you collect. Two ways you could start is by surveying your customers or taking a closer look at product or service reviews. Also make sure that when your employees are talking with customers, they are listening carefully, asking good questions, and documenting the information coming out of those conversations.

2. Engage

Once you listen, make sure to engage and take action. For example, customers know they will reach a human—not a recording—when they call our company's headquarters. And I devote a significant amount of time keeping in touch with customers via phone, email, and social media platforms like Twitter, where I retweet customer tweets, recognize their wins, and simply engage with them on a human level.

Treat customers with respect and ensure you thank them for their business each time you engage.

3. Take initiative

Make sure the first impression for each and every customer is a memorable and positive customer experience. Don't wait until there is a problem for you to swoop in and solve; instead, take a proactive approach to customer service.

If you provide good customer service to start with, many problems can be avoided. And pre-emptive service can even reduce your call volumes and increase customer retention rates.

If providing proactive customer service isn't already your company's approach, one way to get started is to work on anticipating your customers' needs. You can do so by using the helpful insights you've gained from all of the listening and engaging you've been doing. Learn what your customers really need, and provide that from the start.

4. Personalize

Personalizing the customer experience is an opportunity for companies to provide standout, top-notch customer service and set themselves apart from the competition. Know your customers' birthdays. Then, go the extra step and send them handwritten notes or flowers to celebrate. Provide the human touch; the small details matter.

5. Get your employees on board

To create a customer experience that makes doing business with your company a pleasure, you need employees who are willing to go the extra mile for customers. Start by hiring compassionate people and implementing a company culture of integrity. With that as your base, make sure to show your appreciation for the good work those employees are doing: A simple "thank you" can go a long way.

* * *

The bottom line is that although a big gesture or event can certainly provide a significant and positive customer experience, it's only a few moments out of the year. The "little things" that you do every day are what ensures that your customers get a consistent, high-quality experience—and keep coming back for more.

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image of Brandon Sawalich

Brandon Sawalich is senior vice-president for Starkey Hearing Technologies, a premier provider in hearing healthcare.

LinkedIn: Brandon Sawalich