The Importance of Customer Appreciation—and 12 Ways to Do It Right

Having a customer appreciation program is a great way to help keep your customers happy and loyal, and stand out from your competitors.
President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
November 16, 2016

Feeling unappreciated may prompt your customers to take their business elsewhere, in favor of a company that will value their business. Customer appreciation is important for many reasons. First and foremost, it can help make customers happy. And a happy customer may be more likely to not only come back but to also spread the word about your company. This can help build your brand's reputation as a good company to do business with. In an era of globalization, impersonal online shopping and fast-paced lifestyles, customer appreciation may be viewed as a lost art. Taking an old-school, back-to-basics approach to customer appreciation can help your company stand out.

Everyone likes to feel valued. Customers are no different. It's important to remember, however, that when it comes to customer appreciation, sincerity trumps gimmicks. Customer appreciation initiatives that are driven by a genuine desire to please your customers can be very successful. Real appreciation stems from a feeling that we truly care for our customers. It's a sign of genuine gratitude for their business.

Here are 12 tips to help you spruce up your customer appreciation approach:

1. Use the power of surprise.

Surprises can help activate the pleasure centers of the brain. So, sending someone a note of appreciation or a small gift at unexpected times may make your gesture of appreciation more special.

You can also surprise a loyal customer from time to time with an unexpected discount, a special offer or upgrade—just because. This can help you stand out from the competition who may send out notes of customer appreciation at predictable times such as after a major sale or at Christmas.

2. Honor a customer's specific holiday.

Try to customize your holiday gifts or cards to relate to customers who may not celebrate Christmas. Paying attention to holidays specific to your customer's background and culture signals that you have made an effort to know your customers. Your customers may appreciate being treated in a non-generic manner, especially when it comes to the expression of sincere appreciation.

3. Get up close and personal with your customer appreciation efforts.

Rather than sending standard customer appreciation gifts, consider customizing your gifts. You can use insights you gain from your interactions with loyal customers to personalize your gestures of appreciation.

For example, if you know that your customer has small children, sending a children's gift is a thoughtful gesture that's sure to stand out. If some of your customers are golfers, you could send them gifts for golf lovers. Books are also gifts that are easy to personalize once you know a customer's particular interests.

If your company keeps birth dates, consider sending birthday cards to loyal customers. Years ago, I dealt with an insurance company. Every year since then, I receive a musical birthday card from them. Needless to say, when I am shopping for insurance, their name comes to mind. Likewise, a restaurant we frequent keeps a record of birthday and anniversary dates. Every year, close to those dates, the restaurant sends us a personalized letter in the mail with a special discount for a dinner at their restaurant.

4. Stay connected to your best customers.

Consider taking an interest in your best customers' business. You can create a Google Alert for a customer so that you can be notified of their news. You can also periodically visit their social media sites to stay up to speed.

Everyone likes to feel valued. Customers are no different. It's important to remember, however, that when it comes to customer appreciation, sincerity trumps gimmicks.

You could send them a congratulations note for positive news. If you happen to be connected to a customer on LinkedIn, take the time to press "like" or to comment when news appears in your feed. If a customer has published a LinkedIn article that you like, you can show your support and appreciation by placing a comment. All of these gestures of customer appreciation signal to a client that you're genuinely appreciative of the relationship.

5. Send personalized follow-up emails.

Consider setting up an after-sales system to follow up with customers. This not only lets you thank them again for purchasing your product or service—you can also inquire how the purchase is benefiting them. It's a no-cost way to show your appreciation for their patronage.

6. Give the gift of knowledge as sign of a customer appreciation.

It's safe to say that we live in an era where the thirst for information is at an all-time high. You can tap into this need to consume information by sharing your expertise to help your customers. Whether through newsletters, blogs, webinars, social media posts or articles, consider giving the gift of your knowledge with no expectation of return. This mind generosity may be one of the ultimate gifts of appreciation you can give to your community of past and present customers.

7. Show your appreciation for customer referrals.

Referrals may well be the lifeblood of a business. Take the time to personally thank a customer for a referral and send the referring customer a handwritten note or card without delay. Better still, pick up the phone and leave a message if you can.

And here's the thing: do this even if the referral didn't result in a sale. If the referral brought you business, follow up later by letting them know how things turned out and thank them again. Consider giving them a gift, a discount coupon or another token of appreciation.

8. Consider reverse referrals.

If your customers are other business owners, consider referring their business to others when the occasion presents itself.

You can also give them a shout out on social media. This is a particularly thoughtful way of showing your appreciation. Helping them succeed may increase the chances that they will want to reciprocate.

9. Pay attention to your social media advocates.

You may want to take the time to do some social listening by doing any one of the following:

  • looking for any social media mentions of your services or products by satisfied customers
  • refining your search to include not only the @nameofyourcompany or Facebook tags, but also possible hashtags for your service or product in your local area
  • responding to any reviews on sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor

Expressing your appreciation can help you show how much you value your social media advocates .

10. Shine the light on a customer.

If your business lends itself to this, consider establishing a customer of the day, week or month program. Let's say it's a customer who not only visits your neighborhood coffee shop every morning, but brings their family to the shop on weekends and buys your coffee beans for home. Surprise this loyal customer with a personal greeting, and a thank you. Consider giving them a free coffee or other merchandise. These gestures of customer appreciation can show customers that their patronage is not taken for granted. It's noticed and appreciated.

11. Send "miss you" notes.

When you set up a customer appreciation program, try not to focus only on long-term, loyal customers. Consider past customers who are no longer doing business with you as well. You can send them a "We Miss You" note to let them know that you appreciate their past business and want to welcome them again. If you can, include a discount coupon or other incentive.

12. Show your customer appreciation at every opportunity.

Consider sending a thank-you note even when you don't land a deal. A brief note to show your appreciation for the opportunity to submit a proposal or have the chance to meet with a decision maker is a graceful way to stand out in a crowded market. It may help to leave a positive impression of your business for a possible subsequent opportunity.

Are there other customer appreciation strategies that you have used and that you might want to share with other business owners? Share them in the comments.

Read more articles on customer relations.

Photo: iStock
President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.