Building Your Customer Appreciation Strategy

When is it time to show appreciation to your customers? How about now! How about all time!

Some companies have an annual customer appreciation event or do something nice around the holidays, but are these enough? Hardly.

Customer appreciation needs to be an ongoing initiative. It needs to be part of your customer service and customer loyalty strategy.

Some of you might be thinking that a constant emphasis on customer appreciation could be overkill. Yes, it could be, but it depends on how well you execute it.

Making customers feel appreciated does not happen by accident. One of the fundamental concepts behind showing appreciation for your customers is having your front-line staff recognize the important role they play in executing your plan. You must develop buy-in from these key employees.

Your front-line staff, which includes inside and outside sales reps and your field technicians, is interacting with your customers every day. This group of employees can make or break the customer relationship.

Without the support and execution of your front line, you are relying on the annual or periodic events to formally show appreciation. These can be expensive and might not be part of our current plans. Here are some cost-effective ideas you can use to demonstrate your appreciation to your customers.

Be sincere. Whatever you do to show appreciation, it must be delivered sincerely. You can tell when a thank-you is insincere and so can your customers. When you shake the customer's hand, look him or her in the eye and thank them for their business – that is sincere.

A weak and obligatory thank-you at the end of a phone call could come across as phony and lose its impact. I have a dentist who thanks me every time for coming in and tells me how much he appreciates my and my family's business. Though I have been going to the same dentist for over 20 years, I know he genuinely appreciates having me as a customer and does not take my business for granted. His sincere gesture makes a big difference in retaining my business.

Management follow-up. Your front line plays a critical role in every interaction, but management has an important role as well. A follow-up phone call or visit, checking on your services and thanking them for their business, can have a tremendous impact. Again, that message needs to be delivered with sincerity.

A personal note. You want to stand out. You want to make a memorable impression. Try a personal note, the old-fashioned way – hand written. Customers will remember that note saying how much you appreciate their business. Maybe you use this method for after their first piece of business. This will take about 10 minutes (at most), minimal cost, and have a lasting impression.

Remember key dates. Think of how impressed a customer will be that you remember a special date such as a birthday or anniversary. Sending a card or even an email is a way your company can stand out.

Consider sending your message with many people signing it. I have also seen companies do creative things like send a card commemorating the anniversary of doing business with the company. You want to make your customers feel special and this is a great way to accomplish that. It is inexpensive and effective.

The annual event. The summer cookout, holiday party or open house is a great way to show your appreciation. If you are going to go through the time and expense to sponsor an event, make it special and memorable. Offer an event that people look forward to attending.

Do something special that has your customers talking about the event and looking forward to attending the next year. Involve your employees in planning the event.

Provide a giveaway. People love swag – that little gift that makes an impression. It can be a hat or a t-shirt, but it should be memorable. Try to attach the gift to a specific occasion and make certain they know that the gesture is in recognition of their business. It is always nice when a personal note accompanies the gift.

Get input from your employees. Your employees will have both unique and affordable ideas on how you can show appreciation to your customers. With their participation in the process, they will have greater ownership and deliver the message with sincerity.

Provide training for your plan. Developing a strategy on how you will show appreciation to your customers is a great first step, however unless your employees know why they are doing it and how to deliver it, you will not accomplish your objectives. Conduct meetings to build buy-in and cover implementation. These brief meetings will send the right message and help develop your culture.

We are all looking for ways to build customer loyalty and set our company apart from the competition. The message of appreciation can be lasting and powerful and help build more fans of your company.

Thank you for taking time to read this article – I truly appreciate it!

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