You can’t afford to give away lavish gifts to show every customer how much you appreciate them. You’re a small business owner, not Oprah.
But you also don’t have to. Even a gesture as simple as a handwritten note or phone call stands out in a world in an increasingly impersonal world. Customer appreciation is less about “You get a car! You get a car!” and more about what your mom always told you: “It’s the thought that counts.”
Besides, customers say that free stuff isn’t the No. 1 way to their hearts, anyway. In a survey from ClickFox, a provider of customer experience analytics, customers named “providing exceptional 24/7 customer service” as the best way for a company to build loyalty with them. (However, free stuff—or “rewarding me for purchases, feedback and referrals”—was No. 2.)
With these ideas—and in some cases, a little help from automation software like Infusionsoft—you can build loyalty with customers without spending much time and money.
1. Remember birthdays
Your friends might not remember your birthday if not for Facebook. So when a company manages to wish you a happy birthday, it makes a good impression.
With automation software, a customer’s birthday is automatically entered into your contact records when you collect it from a source like a web form. You can set up an automated sequence in which the customer receives an email on her birthday (or a couple days before, if you’re sending a coupon to use on the big day).
2. Pick up the phone
Call a customer—not because you were scheduled to and not because you need something, but just to say hello and ask if she needs any help.
Automation software can issue a reminder for you to do so when you add check-in calls to an automated sequence, or you can dial customers at random. So rarely do companies call for unselfish reasons that your customer may be confused why you’re calling. The moment will stay with her far longer than the few minutes you spent on the phone.
3. Write an old-fashioned thank-you note
Also on the endangered species list of communication methods: the handwritten thank-you note. Automated processes can help you tackle a stack of cards with consistency and efficiency.
Set up an automated sequence in which the software reminds you to write a note a week after the customer makes a purchase. The software can pull the customer’s address from contact records, so all you need is a pen and paper.
4. Buy a cup of coffee
On numerous occasions, Starbucks has seen hundreds of customers pay it forward by buying coffee for the person behind them in the drive-thru line. Getting a free coffee, even though it’s worth only a few bucks, is a day-making kind of delight.
Do the same for your customers by sending them a $5 gift card to a coffee shop—as part of an automated thank-you (as referenced in tip No. 3) or, like the people in the Starbucks drive-thru, just to be nice.
5. Treat customers like your friends
Customers are loyal to companies, but more powerfully, they’re loyal to people. Remind them that there are actual humans behind your brand by mixing up your business-as-usual communications with more personal emails. On occasion (or even as part of a series of automated emails), send a funny YouTube video, an inspirational article or a picture of your dog—because customers are people, too.