How customer appreciation can set you apart from the competition

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Take a moment to think about the people most valuable to your business—partners, managers, employees. It’s easy to remember those you work with on a daily basis. It’s harder if the interactions are less frequent, like with clients or customers.

Customers, however, are the people most critical to your success. They’re not only a source of revenue and growth, but they’re the reason your business exists. It’s crucial to make sure your customers feel satisfied and appreciated, and this goes beyond the customary “thank you” email and satisfaction survey. A business needs to personally connect with and customize their customer appreciation strategy. 

There are many ways to show customer appreciation, but figuring out where to start can be confusing. We've put together everything you need to know about customer appreciation and five targeted ideas to apply to your business.

What is customer appreciation?

Customer appreciation is a term for any act that expresses a company’s gratitude toward its existing customers. While traditional sales and marketing work to attract new customers, today’s leaders know it’s equally—if not more—important to acknowledge customers you already have. This may be as simple as sending a thoughtful present on their birthday, offering a surprise discount, or sharing a user-generated post on social media.

Some brands, like Subway and Central Bank, even have a customer appreciation day. And while April 18 is marked as National Customer Appreciation Day, you can choose any date that works best for your company. No matter how big or small, a thoughtful gesture shows existing customers how much you recognize and value their business. 

Why customer appreciation is important 

A customer may be happy with your products. They may even be happy with your customer service. But if a customer feels unappreciated, they will probably take their business to the next available option. 

Studies show 68% of customers abandon a brand because of its attitude of indifference. (This is even greater than the 14% who leave because they’re actually dissatisfied with the brand’s product.) In fact, feeling unappreciated is the number one reason why customers switch brands

Customer appreciation can effectively prevent this abandonment from happening. When a company performs acts of appreciation in a sincere (not sales-y) way, those customers will feel valued and be more likely to remain loyal in the long run.

Loyal customers play a big part in a business’s profitability. For instance, 32% of executives feel that retaining current customers is a priority, 65% of business comes from existing customers, and 80% of expected profits come from 20% of existing customers.

And, with so many companies to choose from these days, a good customer appreciation strategy is one of the best ways to foster customer loyalty, earn a strong reputation, and stand out in the market.

How to develop a customer appreciation strategy 

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Customers don’t just look for value, they also want to be valued by companies. It’s important to make every customer feel special, and one of the best ways to do this is through customer appreciation. There are no fixed rules, as long as your company acts authentically and sincerely. The following points can help you get started to create your own customer appreciation strategy. 

Make it personal

If you’re working on a customer appreciation plan, consider going a step further and personalizing it for your loyal customers. Using insights gathered from previous interactions, you can create a non-generic gesture they will remember. 

For example, a store can send a custom greeting and gift on a customer’s birthday, or a food establishment can offer a sweet treat for those who frequently purchase from the dessert section. Even a simple after-sales email personalized to each customer, inquiring about how they are enjoying their order, is an easy way to acknowledge their presence. 

Give more than discounts

Sometimes, a customer isn’t looking for discounts or promotions. They want to know more about the purchases they’ve already made. Posting useful information can help customers discover how to best use your products or services. 

Whether it’s a blog, newsletter, or webinar, regular sharing indicates you value your customer’s business and want to provide them with as much support as possible. In time, these customer appreciation and customer retention efforts create a key touchpoint between you and the customer, and build your brand as an expert resource.

Inject an element of surprise

A thoughtful gesture can always help you stand out—especially if it’s for no particular reason. It’s common for companies to offer promotions or gifts during special days, like Christmas or Cyber Monday. But sending a customer appreciation gift “just because” can help set you apart from the competition. This can be anything from a special discount to a gift basket to a company water bottle. 

Surprises have also been shown to activate a person’s dopamine system, which controls the brain’s pleasure receptors. In addition to making them feel good, surprises compel customers to share news about the surprise with others. This helps create a referral effect that promotes your business every time you send a surprise token of customer appreciation. 

Acknowledge your customers

If your business has attracted a loyal customer base, they should be a primary focus of your customer appreciation efforts. Recognize the best customer of the month with a handwritten note or commemorate your best customers (i.e., premium members, those who’ve made a minimum purchase each month, etc.) with a customer appreciation day just for them includes free gifts. 

A customer loyalty program can be used as a regular incentive, or an unexpected surprise to show how much the customer's patronage is appreciated. 

Nowadays, it’s also crucial to be active on the social media channels your customers frequent. Search for any mentions, and respond with an appreciative comment, tweet, mention, or repost. Create posts that feature customers and highlight their customer satisfaction story. Also, don't forget to read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, and answer with an authentic response.

Customer appreciation ideas 

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After reading through the above guidelines, it’s time to fine-tune your customer appreciation ideas. Depending on your line of business and segment of customers, there may be certain ideas that work best. Below are a few examples of customer appreciation initiatives being used today.

Customer appreciation for referrals

Once a business builds a good number of customers, they may benefit from developing a referral network. Simply offering a gift to customers who refer others to the business can greatly contribute toward overall growth. An update on the referral is also an effective way to keep in touch (i.e., “We’re happy to let you know Simon, the person you referred, is now one of our customers”).

Even if the referral doesn’t result in a sale, the customer’s efforts can be recognized with free membership giveaways, brand swag, or a personal thank-you note. 

Customer appreciation for individuals

Many companies already collect voluntary information about their customers. A standard account sign-up form, for instance, asks for first name, last name, and an email address. The date of sign-up and location are automatically included, and any subsequent purchase information is also linked to their account. 

Instead of simply storing the information in a neglected database, usee the customer data you collect to better inform your customer appreciation strategy. A few possible applications can be a message that celebrates a month or year since sign-up, a free item on the customer's birthday (e.g., T-shirts, stickers, water bottles), or a discount on one of their frequently purchased products. 

Customer appreciation for past purchases 

There are new customers, loyal customers, and customers who you haven’t heard from in a while. Keeping in touch with the latter may be worth the effort, as sometimes, customers have lost track of or forgotten to renew their order. 

Sending a “you are missed” message is a gentle reminder that your business doors are always open. Adding in a freebie or small gift can also give customers a warm welcome back. 

Customer appreciation for reaching milestones

When a business reaches one of its goals, whether it’s a sales quota or a number of subscribers, it has its customers to thank. Take the time to thank them by hosting a special event or customer appreciation day. 

For example, a beauty brand can hold a live meet-and-greet with an industry expert or personality where the customer experience includes receiving makeovers using new products. A bakeshop can reward customers with five dozen cakes or five dozen gift cards on its five-year anniversary. 

Milestones provide the perfect opportunity to run a marketing campaign and establish a personal connection between a company and its customers. 

Customer appreciation for long-term clients

Even service-based businesses that have relationships with regular clientele can benefit from customer appreciation efforts. Rather than a customer’s automated purchase process, however, clients typically require a longer sales process. Client services include submitting proposals, managing projects, and analyzing feedback and data. 

In a relatively long relationship, consider expressing your client appreciation during project milestones (i.e., after a quarter of working together), significant dates (such as the manager’s birthday), or even as a thank you for the opportunity to present your project idea. These small acts help you stand out from the competition, and leave a positive impression on your client. 

Show your customer appreciation

With customers having so many different businesses to choose from, their choice really comes down to the finer details. This includes how they feel interacting with a certain company or whether they perceive any other forms of value. To become a customer's first choice, customer appreciation should be part of your strategy. 

If you don’t appreciate your customers, they won’t appreciate—and patronize—your business. But if you create a strong customer appreciation strategy based on recognition and rewards, you’ll be able to build lasting relationships, as well as your brand name. 

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