Julie Burton started a company at age 50, and she quickly learned how to run a business and become an expert at customer service. She operates ModernWell, a co-working space and collaborative membership community for women in Minneapolis. It’s home to writers, consultants, bankers, artists, lawyers, doctors, and even C-suite executives looking for community, connection, and inspiration.
“As I was building my business, my husband gave me great advice — always focus on taking care of your customers,” Julie says. Now she thinks about that every single day. “Building relationships with our members is the most important thing to me. I want our community to feel celebrated, appreciated, and valued,” she explains. “The biggest part of my job is to make sure this actually happens.”
From the very beginning, Julie strove to establish relationships with her customers. For example, she offers ModernWell members a welcome gift when they join, and she sends member appreciation gifts every year. She stepped it up even further during the COVID-19 pandemic, mailing handwritten notes of appreciation to members, each with a garnet pendant. “It’s part of offering exceptional customer service, which impacts customer satisfaction,” Julie explains.
Research shows that 68 percent of customers stop patronizing a company because they feel the business doesn’t care about them. This statistic underscores the critical role that customer appreciation plays in a company’s overall success.
Building relationships with our members is the most important thing to me. I want our community to feel celebrated, appreciated, and valued
Fostering customer appreciation means taking a proactive approach to building relationships and showing customers that you appreciate their business. In other words, a once-a-year Customer Appreciation Day just doesn’t cut it.
So why should you invest time and money in such efforts? And how do you show appreciation? We spoke with several business owners who shared their insights on the value of customer appreciation.
When you show customers you care, they trust you as a credible source and know you will solve their problems. “Our clients know they’re appreciated, and when, heaven forbid, a snafu happens, they’re willing to overlook it because we’ve spent time cultivating a relationship with them over the years,” explains Kim Bode, owner of 8THIRTYFOUR Integrated Communications in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Allocating time and budget for customer appreciation pays dividends because it increases customers’ affinity for the company and maximizes loyalty, says Austin Cohen, founder and CEO of New York–based virtual training provider FlexIt. Karla Campos, founder and CEO of Social Media Sass Marketing in Port Richey, Florida, agrees. “In a world open for business 24/7, customers are receiving offers every time they open their phones,” she says. “What makes your company stand out from the rest? Sometimes showing a little appreciation is the reason people stay loyal.”
Create brand advocates
Customers who love you are more likely to recommend your brand to others, either through word-of-mouth or via social media or online reviews. Since people tend to trust their friends’ opinions, the personal shout-out “increases brand awareness and ultimately leads to new customers and a larger following,” Kim says. Austin agrees, adding, “Customers have shared our brand with their friends and family, and stayed loyal by booking more sessions following customer appreciation efforts.”
Develop long-term customer value
Research shows it costs more money to acquire a new client than to keep an existing one. Prof. Robert W. Palmatier of Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business believes businesses should drive sales and growth by putting aside the numbers and “utilizing buyer emotions and perceptions to provide a more holistic, personalized purchase…to create stronger agent/client ties.” Kim echoes that: “I see a lot of my colleagues pour time and effort into acquiring new clients, forgetting those who have been loyal to them for years,” she says. “Existing clients are your best referral source, and they’ll grow with you if you focus on relationships.”
Improve employee morale
You might not realize that your customer appreciation efforts also affect employees, but showing your commitment to customers will in turn positively affect company morale. “Our team members see that FlexIt truly cares about our customers,” says Austin. “It gives our team pride and increased loyalty to be part of our organization.”
5 Simple Customer Appreciation Ideas
- Communicate regularly: Keep customers informed about what’s going on in your business, but don’t push products all the time. Reach out through a combination of emails, postcards, newsletters, phone calls, and texts. Strike a balance between staying in touch and checking in on them and overcommunicating.
- Profile customers: Shine the spotlight on customers who love your brand — what problem did your product or service solve for them? Dig up customer satisfaction anecdotes, tap into storytelling to convey how your company made a difference, and distribute these stories on your website, in email newsletters, and on social media.
- Listen to customer feedback: While both compliments and complaints will trickle back, you should actively seek feedback from your customers to discover what’s working and what isn’t. Thank them for their feedback — then act on it if the situation warrants it.
- Give a token of appreciation: Who doesn’t enjoy getting a gift? Whether it’s a free product, a complimentary service, or exclusive access to a private event, make your customers feel special with a small gift. Tip: This doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.
- Send a handwritten note: In today’s tech-saturated world, a handwritten note of appreciation will stand out in customers’ minds. But, to truly make a positive impact, make sure this personal note is heartfelt and specific.
Investing in a customer appreciation program pays dividends on many levels, no matter the size of your business. Whether it’s a simple phone call or a more extravagant customer appreciation event, nurturing relationships with those who buy your products and services is a sound business strategy.
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