What’s The Best Way To Show Customer Appreciation?

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Photo credit Clive Andrews via Flickr Creative Commons license

What’s the best way to show customer appreciation? Though there are many customer appreciation ideas – we’ve covered dozens of them on the PsPrint Blog – it’s tough to pick a single best way to show customer appreciation. Or is it?

The reasons it can be difficult to determine the best way to show your customers how much you value their business are multifaceted. For example:

  • Individual customers might have different ideas about what customer appreciation means.
  • The end goal of expressing customer appreciation isn’t necessarily happy customers, but customer retention. Of course, the two are related, so it’s worth noting that what customers say they want isn’t necessarily the best way to prove your appreciation in order to achieve your goal of retention.
  • Different situations call for different demonstrations of appreciation. For example, a follow-up call might reinforce the mood of an already-happy customer, while a freebie might be required to alleviate the concerns of a disgruntled customer.

In addition, your specific industry, brand and customer demographics might play critical roles in determining the best way to show customer appreciation. Perhaps it’s a good idea to employ a similarly multifaceted approach to customer appreciation.

A case of customer under-appreciation

This past winter I visited a local furniture store with the intent of purchasing a mattress. The salesperson was excited to point out that all mattresses were currently half off. I found a mattress I liked and told the salesperson I would consult my wife and likely be back the following day to make the purchase. However, when I came back a different salesperson told me that all the mattresses were half off except the one I had picked. When I disputed his claim given what the other salesperson told me, he said I was welcome to come back the following day to speak to the original salesperson about it.

That’s exactly what I did, and the original salesperson sold me the mattress at the originally-stated price. I was a happy customer, and decided I would return later that afternoon with my wife to purchase a living room suite and dining room set. However, an hour after leaving the store the original salesperson called me and said they had indeed made a mistake – and wanted me to pay the difference for the mattress. I refused, and a subsequent series of calls with that salesperson’s superiors led to:

  • Accusations that I tried to “put one over on them.”
  • Statements that I was upsetting the original salesperson and that I was solely responsible for a deduction in that salesperson’s pay, as they would have to cover the loss if I didn’t comply (ownership refused responsibility or to back their employees).
  • A refusal on their part to honor their stated price even if I came in to purchase a living room suite and dining set that would have far offset their “loss” on the mattress and allowed them to profit from the sale, all the while retaining a customer who in all likelihood would have continued to do business with them for the next 30 years.

Ultimately, I decided to cancel the mattress purchase and all future purchases with the company. Moreover, I told anyone with a willing ear about my experience, and I know for a fact that several family members who were considering furniture purchases decided to buy from the store’s competitors instead.

The point here is that this particular furniture store was more concerned with getting their price for a single item than they were with landing a long-term customer – even despite the fact that said customer was wiling to work with them to ensure their profitability via additional purchases. Moreover, they cast all blame on the customer – me – and refused to accept any responsibility of their own. Had they been willing to offer good – not even exceptional, but good – customer service, all parties concerned would have left the day’s transactions happy, and they would not have lost tens of thousands of dollars in current and future sales.

Informal completely unscientific poll

This incident led me to ask my Facebook fans what they felt was the best way to express customer appreciation. Answers varied as follows:

  • 40 percent cited “great customer service” as being the best way to express customer appreciation.
  • 40 percent cited “discounts and freebies” as being best.
  • 20 percent cited personal follow-ups, such as handwritten postcards, as being best

Granted, this poll was informal and completely unscientific, but it does shed light on what customers believe is best. The question is: Do customers’ beliefs align with what really promotes long-term customer retention?

Case studies from the web

If published case studies are to be believed, the answer is “yes.” For example:

  • Circles helped a Fortune 10 company host a free dinner/tour/networking event that not only motivated long-term customer loyalty, but also generated $48,000 in sales.
  • ZAGG sent customers “thank you” emails with offers for freebies with minimum purchases, and enjoyed a 152 percent increase in revenue per email and 252 percent increase in customer conversion rate.
  • Meridian helped a credit card company launch a tiered rewards program that resulted in 17 percent increased purchase volume and 50 percent customer participation.
  • On the flipside, when Netflix increased its fees by 60 percent in July 2011 without consulting customers, they lost more than 800,000 subscribers overnight; however, the company rewarded those who stayed with a free mail-order DVD rental.

The bottom line: What is the best customer appreciation policy?

To be sure, the best customer appreciation policy is dependent on the situation at-hand. If you have disgruntled customers, then exceptional customer service is the first priority. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer additional incentives and follow-up later.

Thus, it seems the absolute best customer appreciation policy involves a multi-tiered approach:

  1. Exceptional customer service
  2. VIP treatment, discounts and freebies
  3. Personal follow-ups

If you provide all three of these customer appreciation demonstrations in all situations, you’ll undoubtedly increase your rates of both customer satisfaction and customer retention. Give your customers what they need and want, give them great value for being customers, and show them that you care about them as people and not dollars. That’s what makes a great company, and it’s a recipe for long-term sustainability.

What’s your favorite way to show customer appreciation?