The gesture of showing appreciation seems to be a lost art. A simple “thank you” may go some way to add warmth to any relationship, but in reality just represents common courtesy. Authentically-demonstrated appreciation, however, develops the emotional connection in relationships and solidifies the customer’s patronage. Smart businesses know that showing customers how much they genuinely care is an opportunity to win them over for life. Having a faithful customer base is an asset for any business – the development of this base requires a strategy and deliberate action from all employees, some pointers of which should include:
- Treat you own staff well – a strategy that demonstrates authenticity with respect to appreciating customers really starts internally (within the business). Internal customers need to be respected and given exceptional service. Dr Stephen R Covey (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fame) noted: “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers”. As quality internal service gets modelled between departments and from leadership to staff, employees pick up on desired behaviours and act them out.
- Personalise your service and interaction with customers – maintain a data base with customer preferences so that contact can be personal and relevant.
- I ordered coffee filters from an online kitchenware and food company. Upon opening the delivery, together with the filters, I found a fridge magnet saying thank you and a hand-written note suggesting that I may be interested in trying a new blend of coffee that they had introduced. Attached to the note was a small sample pouch of coffee. I so enjoyed the sample that I ordered coffee beans that same day.
- The waiters at a certain restaurant spend a little extra time (two to three minutes) with arriving patrons to get to know just a little bit about them. This information is relayed to kitchen employees who subsequently decorate a dessert plate capturing something about the person – e.g. favourite sports club, hobby, music genre, etc.
- Give some knowledge away for free – many firms are reticent to pass on valuable information to clients for free out of a fear of declining sales, however, the opposite is probably true as you establish yourself as both an industry authority and a generous person who cares about the welfare of customers. Some examples could include:
- An appliance sales company giving cleaning tips and detergent samples for stoves or defrosting do’s/don’ts for fridges
- A training/consulting company assisting their clients with suggestions that will help training interventions ‘stick’
- Mobile phone/computer companies providing lists of short-cuts and other tips for their respective devices
- Ask for feedback regularly and act on it swiftly – asking for feedback suggests openness for suggestions and complaints and also helps you assess how well you are doing. Listen to customers well, clarify anything that may be vague and act quickly, particularly rectifying any mistake.
- Reward customers – for loyalty and possibly for spend. Customers like to feel appreciated – rewarding them with coupons, gifts, samples, positive press, behind-the-scenes access, etc., always makes for positive perception.
- Communicate regularly – there are many communication channels and not all are digital. Use the most effective ones, remembering that the more personal a channel (like a hand-written note or a telephone call), the more likely emotional connection will get established.
Standing out from the competition requires going the extra mile in relation to customer service – authentic appreciation and care are necessary to establish an emotional tie (and subsequently loyalty) with this asset.