How do you show customer appreciation? In other words, how do your customers know you care about them?
Without your customers, you have no business. Keeping customers loyal to your company is crucial to its growth and success. One way to encourage loyalty is to show your customers how much you appreciate them.
While stellar customer service and expressing thanks are the foundations of customer appreciation, they’re the bare minimum. To truly show your customers you care, you’ll need to go above and beyond.
We’ve gathered 14 tips and strategies to help you master customer appreciation. But first, let’s explain why customer appreciation is so vital for businesses today.
Why is customer appreciation so important?
A customer’s continued trust is the lifeblood that keeps your business running. When they feel appreciated, customers are more likely to stick with you – and even share their experience with others.
The more loyal a customer is, the higher their lifetime value is for your business. Loyal customers are also more likely to refer friends to your business – and since the recommendation comes from a trusted person, these friends are more likely to become loyal customers themselves.
But why is great customer service not enough for true customer appreciation? Customers already expect your business to meet their needs and solve their problems.
What they aren’t expecting are thoughtful gestures that make them feel like VIPs. These small, but significant, touches are what set your business apart from competition, and show customers they are truly appreciated.
Now, let’s dive into some customer appreciation ideas your company can use to show how much you care.
1. Personalized thank-you notes
Surprising customers with a handwritten thank-you note is an effective way to show how much they mean to you. Handwriting the note will make it stand out from the emails your company usually sends to customers. Plus, everyone loves receiving an actual personal letter in the mail!
It’s best to personalize your note – don’t write a basic “Thanks for being a customer” card. Use this opportunity to form a strong connection with your customer and highlight your brand even further. Be specific about what the customer has helped your business accomplish, and how they’ve contributed to your growth.
- How long have they been your customer?
- What milestones have they helped you achieve?
- What makes them such an amazing customer?
Be candid and genuine. You might also want to consider pairing the letter with a personalized gift (more on gifts below).
If you want to show appreciation digitally, but still send a personalized message to customers, consider putting together a thank-you video. Just like a handwritten note, make each video personal, specific, and focus on the customer.
Why not combine snail mail with an added video? Send out a note with a unique QR code, which when scanned, takes a customer to their personal video.
2. Regular customer spotlights
There’s no need to keep your appreciation for your customers to yourself. Consider adding a weekly customer spotlight on your website, blog, or social media accounts.
- Invite customers to submit their information and photo for a chance to be featured, and select one for your customer spotlight each week.
- Add some details of your own in each spotlight, such as how long they’ve been a customer and what makes them so awesome.
- You could even send the customer a discount coupon, store credits, or free gift.
This form of recognition shows how thankful you are to have your customers. It may also bring an added benefit of customers sharing the spotlight with others, and indirectly generating publicity for your brand.
3. Networking events
Whether you operate online or offline, consider holding free networking events for your customers. Treat and promote these events like parties, where customers can have fun getting to know each other and your team, outside of a business setting. As with all customer appreciation strategies, you shouldn’t focus on making more sales at these events. (However, it’s still important to present a consistent brand image. If you’re a fitness studio, for example, you probably don’t want to offer cake and cookies as snacks).
If you take the physical route, provide food and entertainment you know your customer base will enjoy. This includes selecting the right music, games, and other activities. You could even survey your customers beforehand to see what kind of perks they’d enjoy at a special event like this.
If the event is virtual, you can still set up breakout rooms and fun games (think Jackbox, Houseparty, or even a virtual escape room). You could even send snacks or food gift cards to customers a few days in advance, which they can enjoy on the day of the event. A package of select food items, like wine, cheese, chocolate, or a nice charcuterie spread could even be the focus of your virtual event.
4. Surprise discounts or store credits
This is probably the simplest way to show customer appreciation, but also one of the most effective. Whether via email or snail mail, send customers discount coupons or store credits on their birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of their first purchases, or “just because.”
You can opt to post surprise discounts or credit offers on your social media accounts, or even combine them with a personalized thank-you letter (see above)!
Discounts and credits don’t need to be limited to your own business, either. You can offer surprise credits for customers to use at other businesses they frequent, similar to how T-Mobile does each week with its T-Mobile Tuesdays program.
Even a small token is enough to make your customers feel appreciated. And they’ll enjoy having at least part of their next purchase covered.
5. Free products
Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Free product giveaways are a very popular customer appreciation method. They work especially well for companies selling relatively inexpensive products, such as food and beverage brands.
Think of how Chick-Fil-A gives out free entrees on their Cow Appreciation Day, or how 7-11 gives away free Slurpees every July – customers rave about these regular giveaways!
(As these two brands have shown, a free product giveaway day can serve as the basis for a customer appreciation day. Check out our other tips for customer appreciation days below.)
6. Regular check-ins
Everyone appreciates having someone listen to them. Lend an ear to your customers and make time for regular, heartfelt conversations with them, whether in-person, on the phone, or via video call.
These check-ins help you build relationships with customers, and show that you see them as much more than a number. Customers will also appreciate the initiative you took to check in, rather than only talking to them when they reach out to you with a problem.
Keep these conversation tips in mind:
- Listen to what they have to say, both related and unrelated to your business.
- Keep the conversation focused on them, without trying to impose any of your own sales or marketing agendas.
- Remember their personal details and interests, and use them in future conversations.
- Ask how they feel about your business and their previous experiences.
- Be specific and heartfelt about why you appreciate them as a customer.
- Invite them to share any ideas on how to improve your products/services. If it makes sense, actually apply some of these ideas – this shows you truly listen to and appreciate their input.
A fun way to show customer appreciation is to hold a contest for them, complete with an assortment of valuable prizes. You could run a simple raffle drawing, where all customers get an entry, or a social media contest, where every like, comment, share or repost earns an entry.
Make sure the contest is engaging and your prizes don’t feel overly promotional. Customers should know you’re doing this out of your sincere appreciation, rather than an attempt to promote your business. Of course, your contest should still stick to your brand image and values.
Aside from that, there are plenty of ways to spice things up. Consider running photo contests, video contests, or social media post contests, where customers share a post about a specific theme with your unique brand hashtag.
8. Meaningful and useful gifts
Whether it’s branded swag or a non-branded, personal gift, customers will appreciate receiving something they can use.
Branded swag usually has a promotional purpose. But if you know customers will make use of it (i.e., a mug, a sweater), it still works for customer appreciation. Plus, the more your customers can make use of your gift, the more likely they have to keep your brand at top of mind.
Swag offers another benefit to showing your appreciation – it also increases customer loyalty. Customers are twice as likely to have a positive impression of your brand if they receive swag, as compared to seeing a traditional ad.
A non-branded personal gift, on the other hand, might come across more heartfelt. If you decide to send a personal gift, choose one based on the customer’s needs and interests. For example, a first-time mother might appreciate a diaper bag or baby blanket, while a tween who loves unicorns will probably enjoy a rainbow unicorn headband. Or, someone who just moved to a new area might enjoy a gift card to a local restaurant.
Regardless of what you choose, a customer should be able to tell that you put thought into their gift. After all, the value to the customer matters more than the cost of providing the gift.
9. Charitable donations
Customers greatly appreciate when a brand supports causes close to their own heart, and has values aligned with their own. This is especially true for millennials and members of Gen Z.
Find a few nonprofits your customer base cares about, and regularly donate a portion of your profits to these causes. You could even take Target’s approach, and let customers vote on which causes you’ll donate to each month.
But remember to tread carefully. Charitable donations should be made only when you’re truly invested in your customers and the nonprofits they love, and not just for your own gain.
10. Surprise upgrades
If you’re a SaaS or other subscription-based business, free upgrades are another tailored way to give your customers the VIP treatment they deserve. Upgrades work especially well if your customers have used a certain level of service for a while, or if they’re using outdated versions of a tool. Even if the upgrade is given for a limited time, customers will appreciate the token of appreciation.
Surprise upgrades work for other service-based businesses, as well. For example, a hotel could move a guest to a better room, or a theater could offer seating upgrades.
What if you sell products? You can still take a page out of the Zappos playbook and offer shipping upgrades or free shipping to a customer’s order every now and then. Keep an eye out for any services you provide customers and find ways to upgrade them at no cost.
11. Assistance in a time of great need
Offering temporary upgrades, discounts, or free products works especially well in times of great need, such as when customers are affected by a natural disaster or health crisis.
For instance, recording software Loom offered several upgrades to students, teachers, and businesses who needed assistance during the pandemic. They removed their free plan’s previous recording limits, let users try their paid plan free for longer periods, offered business users 50% off of their paid plan, and gave educators and students full free access to their paid plan.
This assistance can be given on a personal level, as well. Take a cue from Zappos: A customer once called Zappos to return boots bought for her father, who had recently passed away. The Zappos team engaged in a heartfelt conversation with her, offered to refund the cost of the boots, and told her not to worry about returning them – she was free to give them away. Then, the team sent her a bouquet of flowers. In doing so, the Zappos team created a customer-centric experience by going the extra mile.
12. Customer appreciation days
Customer appreciation days (or weeks) are the perfect time to combine several customer appreciation strategies. Choose several different gifts and perks you think customers like most, and shower them all at once on a special customer appreciation day or week.
When to host the day?
- On April 18, which is National Customer Appreciation Day, or a date close to it
- Your company’s anniversary, a holiday, or another day significant to your community
- Any random day or week of your choosing as a “holiday” for customers
- Even several days throughout the year can be designated as holidays for your customer appreciation celebration. After all, customers need to know they’re appreciated throughout the year.
Whichever customer appreciation holiday you create, make sure your customers know about it well in advance so they can enjoy all the perks.
13. Loyalty programs
Loyalty programs are one great year-round perk to show customers how much you appreciate their business. These programs also make it easier to give your biggest perks to your most loyal customers.
Customer loyalty programs reward your faithful customers with valuable incentives, such as free products/services, discounts, cash back, and exclusive items and experiences. Customers earn these rewards for making purchases, advocating for your business, and simply remaining loyal customers. These programs really make your customers feel like VIPs, making it’s easier for them to continue their relationship with your business.
Thinking about starting a loyalty program? Our loyalty program guide has everything you need to design and launch a program. We’ve also broken down all the ways you can reward customers in a loyalty program.
14. Referral programs
Many of your customers may already be sharing your brand with friends and family. These customers are helping spread the word about you in the market, and playing an active role in growing your business.
Studies show referrals from existing customers are both more likely to become new customers, and easier to retain than non-referred customers. It’s important that you show your appreciation for those customers who take the extra effort to refer their friends!
Referral programs are an easy way to reward customers for referring friends, as well as reward the referred new customers for making their first purchase. The right program tool can help you keep track of any customer who refers friends, so you know exactly when to send your thanks and reward for their efforts.
We’ve put together everything you need to know about starting a referral program in our referral program playbook, which includes a guide to showing your customer appreciation with the right referral rewards.
Wrapping things up
With all the different customer appreciation strategies, the main focus is to make sure customers know you care. Don’t let any customer appreciation effort feel like it’s really meant to push your brand or increase sales.
While some of these strategies may also help with sales or marketing, it shouldn’t be the main purpose. When customers feel appreciated, they will naturally remain loyal and continue being an important part in your business success.