My colleague Richard Scully who consults chambers all over the nation, got me thinking about client appreciation and how good client appreciation strategies can help grow businesses. He listed some tips, which I’ve bundled here together with some of my own, along with some from Larry Alton, a Washington based business consultant.
Client appreciation improves your client relationships and facilitates retention - and it doesn’t cost much to execute. When customers feel appreciated, they’re much more likely to stick around, and they’re more likely to recommend you to friends or colleagues.
1. Send thank you notes or maybe even thank you gifts. Whenever you’re writing thank you notes, be specific. A generic “thank you” card won’t mean nearly as much as one that conveys a message of gratitude for the experience of working together. Email and other digital messages can be valuable, but few communications are as powerful as receiving physical mail. So, try sending handwritten notes or cards. The excitement of getting a piece of physical mail that isn’t junk can instantly make someone feel appreciated - and handwriting always feels more personal than typewritten text, even if your handwriting is as sloppy as mine!
2. Your customer appreciation strategy should include both individual and group level tactics. At the individual level, you can send gifts, write notes, and maybe even take clients out to dinner. At the group level, you can host customer appreciation weeks and special events where your customers all gather together. I know a few businesses here in Columbus that do that, like Edward Jones and AL&M Building Supply, just to name a few.
3. Take advantage of holidays. Holidays are the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for your clients. Around commonly celebrated holidays, like Columbus Day, Christmas or the Fourth of July, consider sending a gift basket (or at least a card in the mail). The same is true for birthdays and celebrating personal accomplishments. I get a birthday card every year from my insurance agent. It’s nice. It makes me feel good.
4. For loyal or recurring customers, consider offering periodic discounts and freebies. Customers love to see surprise discounts applied to their orders, and they love getting free extras in the mail even more. And most of them will likely come back.
5. Even in this predominantly digital age, face-to-face communication remains one of the best ways to bond with people. Instead of just sending a card or an email, try to have a meal together or a chat over coffee, when we’re able to do those things safely. Periodic in-person visits can make your client relationships much stronger. (That’s easy for me to say, but I must admit I don’t get out to visit with Chamber members as much as I’d like to.)
6. Bend the rules (when appropriate). Your company likely has some firm rules in place about client interactions and procedures. But maybe be willing to bend, or even break those rules for your best clients. This could be a way of showing your appreciation by going out of your way to make them satisfied.
7. Surprises can make any positive gesture seem even better - and your clients will be more likely to share surprises with other people they know. Go out of your way to plan and execute small, positive surprises for your customers, like delivering projects earlier than anticipated or sending a surprise gift.
8. One of the most important things is to learn from your past efforts. Pay attention to how your clients respond to different gestures. They may be relatively indifferent to one method of appreciation, but particularly receptive to another. Learn from that and update your customer appreciation approach for the future.
9. Here’s one last tip that’s very easy to do. Give your employees all name badges to wear. At first this doesn’t sound like a form of client appreciation, but it really is. You’re giving them a way to interact with your staff on a friendlier basis which will make them more likely to feel better about their experience at your place of business. I personally feel very strongly about this one, as I have great difficulty remembering people’s names. So when I look at a name badge on a clerk, a waiter or waitress, or an office receptionist and am able to say, “Thank you, Nancy,” I feel so much better about your business, about my encounter at your business and, quite frankly I end up feeling better about myself. And it’s THAT feeling, that’s going to make me want to come back again and again.
Columbus Chamber of Commerce