We all know how valuable it is to offer our customers great customer service. But classically, even stellar customer service is reactive. This is when businesses engage with customers only when they contact the company with problems.
Not only is that somewhat one-sided, it also means that almost every customer interaction starts out negatively. What's missing is a strategy to create positive interactions on a more consistent basis.
Enter customer appreciation. It’s a process that guides businesses to reach out proactively to customers and build healthy relationships founded on trust and mutual respect.
Customer appreciation and customer service both work to build loyal customers who are impervious to your competitor's offers, but the latter waits for your customers to contact you. A well-tuned customer appreciation program seeks out positive interactions outside, and alongside, common touchpoints.
The two work in concert to create bulletproof customer bonds. Plus, when your customers are loyal, you can capture all of their business. And likely business from their extended networks, and beyond . Happy, appreciated customers are referral machines.
Below you'll find 10 customer appreciation ideas that foster healthy, open, and constant conversations with your customers. You’ll see how that, in turn, creates lasting relationships with customers who are easier to retain.
1. Celebrate Customer Appreciation Day
Customer Appreciation Day is celebrated on the third Friday in May, but there's no need to wait until then to throw your own appreciation party. You can choose your own annual date or celebrate more frequently. The date you celebrate is less important than placing your customers at the center of your focus and making certain they know it.
An easy way to bring customers into the celebration is to throw a customer appreciation day sale. Lower prices will encourage customers to visit your store or seek out your service.
Beyond that, if you design thoughtful discounts, you can use them as a way to thank valued customers for their continued patronage. Look at your sales figures and talk to your customers about the items they're most interested in, and then create discounts aimed at satisfying those needs.
2. Build a Customer Loyalty Program
Companies rightly focus a significant share of their marketing resources on growing new business. Unfortunately, this often occurs without regard to existing customers, and this is a mistake. Customer retention drives revenue just as effectively as new business growth.
One study found that a modest 5% increase in customer retention can translate to a 29% gain in revenue and a 25% increase in profitability. The more you can do to keep the customers you have, the more sales you'll gain and the few customers you'll have to replace.
Customer loyalty programs are a fairly standard method for helping your customers feel appreciated. You'll need some way to track purchases and/or points, and a prize system to reward loyal patrons.
Structure your rewards in a way that makes sense for your customers and provides tangible value. Few people will participate in your program if they don't feel the payoff matches their efforts. For example, if you sell high-dollar items, offering a $5 coupon once a month likely won’t inspire much of a reaction from your customers. Your rewards need to feel like they’re moving the needle for the customer.
3. Send Automated Handwritten Customer Appreciation Notes
Saying "thank you" is such a deeply embedded social behavior that most of us do it on a daily basis, often without thinking. Each of us probably hears (and tunes out) dozens of off-handed thank yous each day. It's easy to forget to appreciate genuine gratitude when it comes your way.
Until it shows up in your mailbox — warm handwritten sentiments spilling from the card as you pluck it from its envelope. Then you know someone took the time to craft their message to you by hand and set it down letter by letter.
Businesses can capitalize on humanity's natural affinity for the handwritten word to create immediate and indelible emotional connections with their customers. A handwritten thank you finds its target far more readily than a pre-printed card, an eCard, or an email.
Companies like Simply Noted automate the handwritten word, so you get the efficiency and flexibility of digital communications along with the emotional honesty of genuine handwriting.
4. Don't Forget Your Not-So-Loyal Customers
It's tempting to focus all of your attention on those that love you the most, but in truth, you've already won over your most loyal customers. It's your less consistent clients that require more care.
Instead of sending your fair weather customers a thank you card, try letting them know how much you miss them. Not only will they realize how much you've appreciated their business previously, they'll appreciate your proactive approach.
Regardless of your message, however, you should always consider sending handwritten notes when you're trying to make an emotional impact.
5. Give Information Away for Free
Your company's expertise is one of its most valuable assets. It's also the perfect giveaway for building credibility, and it's a great "thank you" to boot.
Giving away such a valuable resource might seem counterintuitive, but it's actually a savvy investment. Creating a body of useful customer knowledge, whether in a blog, a podcast, a newsletter, or some other form, helps to educate your prospects while simultaneously establishing your brand as a trusted information source.
For example, you can create eBooks that you choose to offer to your audience un-gated. That is, long-form content that they can access for free without inputting their email, phone number, or name.
6. Make Your Customers the Stars of Your Social Media Posts
Celebrate your customers with targeted social media posts designed to promote your business while expressing your gratitude. You might choose a "customer-of-the-week" and rave about them, stressing the length and depth of your business relationship.
Alternatively, you might start a retweeting program where you repost customer photos and other scenes of customer interaction. This provides your customers with a fun "15 minutes of fame" while giving your brand a great opportunity for self-promotion.
You can also publicly thank your customers for positive reviews, allowing you to publish their kind words to all of your prospects without coming off as a braggart.
7. Provide a Free Value-Add to Your Most Loyal Customers
You can encourage customers to keep working with you by offering small incentives predicated on their tenure with your company.
In their first year, you might keep the offer modest — a one-time discount or a small free gift. A warm gesture that reminds them how important they are to you.
Over time you can scale your rewards, creating punctuated appreciation gifts that trigger at various anniversaries. Your customers will come to look forward to this periodic interaction with your brand.
Pre-sale notifications are another inexpensive way to create a loyal inner circle of brand ambassadors. Send out a special, limited announcement to your largest and most important customers, giving them more notice than the general public about upcoming sales and promotional events.
8. Partner With Other Local Businesses to Offer Your Customers More
Greeting customers at the door (or virtually on your website) with a smile is the simplest way to show someone they're appreciated. But of course, you'll need to do a lot more than that to create loyal clients and customers.
One way to thank your customers for choosing you is to work with other local businesses to provide your customers with even more reasons to love your service.
Imagine you run a small ice cream shop. You might partner with a local bakery to provide cakes and other baked goods to accompany your delicious frozen treats. Small appliance stores might partner with the business owner of a regional repair service to offer full-service customer care on every purchase.
You never really know what might convert a fence-sitter to a loyal customer, so don't put all your eggs in one basket — diversify!
9. Learn About Your Customers and Use What You Know
Most retail POS systems allow you to attach notes to customer accounts. You can use this feature to add personal details about each person that shops with you. Pay attention to the sorts of things they buy. Ask them about themselves. Learn what motivates them.
Flesh out their profile in your POS with each visit. Later, you and your employees can use this to offer more personalized interactions. Your customers will appreciate that you respect them enough to take the time to get to know them. It's a great way to say, "thank you for sticking with us!"
If you’re in a business that doesn’t use a POS system, think through the ways you can capture and store this relevant customer information. However you do it, it’ll serve you well the further your relationship goes.
10. Make Customer Appreciation Important to Your Entire Organization
It's one thing to say you're going to show your customers more love. Making it happen is a different matter. In order to create a culture of appreciation, start at the top. Make certain management communicates a consistent message of appreciation to employees as a model for their behavior.
Then, encourage your employees to use the same messaging with customers. Add gratitude language to all of your customer interaction scripts. Sprinkle thank yous throughout customer calls and emails.
Finally, create policies that codify the new, positive behaviors you've learned into your regular rules of customer engagement. When everyone in your organization is paying appreciation to your customers, they'll get the message, and your sales will soar.
Customers That Feel Appreciated Will Return the Favor
The advice in this article takes advantage of an interesting facet of human psychology. When a person feel appreciated, their sense of self-worth increases. This, in turn, leads them to look more favorably upon the person that showed them gratitude. For companies, this translates to loyal customers excited to business with you.
Whether you choose to send automated handwritten notes with Simply Noted, create an engaging customer loyalty program, or make your customers famous on social media, you’ll see better retention rates, more frequent conversions, and a big boost to your sales.
This is a guest post by Rick Elmore, the founder of Simply Noted, a leader in automated handwritten communications. Learn more at simplynoted.com.