Five Ways to Thank Customers — And How to Find Opportunities in Your Organization

by Jeannie Walters

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When our waiter flagged us down by the door, I assumed we had left something behind or forgotten to sign the credit card slip or something.

My husband and I were walking out of a restaurant with our two boys, who were 9 and 12 at the time, while on vacation in Florida several years ago.  I was so surprised when our server made such an effort to stop us to say that he appreciated how polite our boys were.

“Please’s and thank you’s aren’t very common anyway, but especially from kids. Thank you for the thank yous! Seriously – your sons are both very polite and I appreciate it!”

Of course, I was proud of my kids for being polite. And I’ll admit I’m proud of us for helping them be that way.  But I remember this well because of the way he highlighted how he doesn’t usually hear these words. Please and thank you can go a long, long way.

Humans like to feel appreciated. In one study , people were more inclined to help with a a follow-up request from someone following a thankful reply for the first request. And this generosity of spirit also impacted the likelihood of helping others in the future, not just the original requester.

Our customers provide us all the success of our businesses. They pay our paychecks, keep the lights on, and give our products and services meaning and value. Yet most business plans don’t have a “customer appreciation program” section. And when talking business strategy, showing customers gratitude is hardly mentioned.

We know that building loyalty requires more positive interactions than negative ones. So let’s get proactive about how we thank customers. To inspire you, here are a few of my favorite examples and ideas around how to do this.

Five Ways to Thank Customers

1. Deliver handwritten thank you notes

Yes, yes, we all know it’s a good idea. But we still don’t use this tried and true method enough!

This isn’t just for the first-time purchase. Get a card in the mail to say thank you for being a customer for a year, or two or twenty! Keep it simple and heartfelt, and make it all about gratitude. Don’t turn it into a sales pitch.

While it’s great to send personal notes, of course, it’s possible to get creative. I love this example from Southwest Airlines. Employees wrote and tied hand-written thank you notes to baggage that travelers collected after their flight. Simple, but a really nice way to connect with customers in an unexpected way.

2. Send unexpected freebies.

It’s so fun to receive something unexpected.

One agency I worked with sent anniversary-themed treats to customers for each milestone anniversary as a customer. Cookies emblazoned with You’re # 1! for the first year, five types of fudge for the fifth year, etc. It was unexpected and customers were sometimes surprised with the milestone themselves.

Chewy, a pet supply digital retailer, is known for getting to know their customers and their pets. Customers might receive a surprise of a custom portrait of their furry companions. The hashtag #chewyportraits is a series of customers expressing their gratitude for these wonderful, thoughtful surprises. Each portrait also has a hand-written note from the company. It’s an impressive way to say thank you to customers!

3. Help customers feel great about being part of philanthropy or donations.

T-Mobile has been focused on thanking customers with special coupon codes, discounts and sweepstakes each Tuesday. The popularity of the app and program has led to giveaways of more than 35 million cups of free coffee, 11 million+ pizzas, and much more.

Now they are translating that popularity into contributions to Feeding America , the United States’ largest hunger-relief nonprofit. Customer clicks on the app or social media posts with the #CaptureKindness hashtag during the last two weeks of November will prompt T-Mobile to donate $10 to the organization. Customers and others are proudly posting about their acts of kindness and are contributing to a cause they care about.

4. Give customers a bonus with their buy!

Sephora offers a version of a customer bonus with every order. Customers can select what free samples they want in addition to their order.

The company John’s Crazy Socks not only includes a handwritten note with every shipment but also a bonus of a bag of Skittles!

5. Fix problems before the customer complains.

This is possibly an overlooked way to show gratitude. Customers often don’t complain about something that went wrong. But they are surprised and delighted when companies correct the issue proactively.

 

How to Find Opportunities to Thank Your Customers:

There are so many ways to show gratitude to customers. Customers love being thanked and it feels good to thank them!

Customer appreciation efforts can be incorporated into your overall customer journey, put into regular communications, and included in employee processes and standards.

Are you ready to turn these inspirations into active appreciation? Try these methods:

1. Take a look at your customer’s journey.

Are there logical places when it makes sense to thank them?

Of course there are times like a first purchase or a renewal. What about when they complete a training process or post about your brand on social media?

2. Look for milestones.

Are there milestones to recognize? Can you plan for appreciation at key points in the relationship?

Hotel brands sometimes thank customers for their 10th or 100th stay. Are there key milestones like that to use as an opportunity to say thanks?

3. Support your customers’ goals.

What does your customer do with your products and services? Is there a way to support that?

Think about how your customers use what you sell. What goals are they looking to achieve? What pain points do they have in their experiences?

A piano tuner sent a download code for free sheet music as a thank you, a few months after the initial tuning appointment. Customers loved getting the music and often called him to schedule their next appointment, without any sales pitch!

4. Empower your employees.

Are your employees empowered to thank customers?

There’s currently a discussion among food delivery drivers asking for a way to thank customers for good tips. Once the tip is entered, they don’t have a way to communicate with customers and want the ability to do that. The drivers feel grateful for the tips and want to thank customers in return. It’s in the best interest of the brand, the drivers and the customers to allow for that communication cycle of gratitude.

How Have You and Your Customers Experienced Thankfulness?

I’d love to hear from you. Whether you’d like to share…

  • Creative ways your organization thanks customers
  • Ways a brand has thanked you as a customer
  • Ideas you have to thank customers
  • How you or your customers have felt and responded to demonstrations of gratitude

…I’d love to hear it.

Tweet  @jeanniecw with the #ExperienceThankfulness hashtag and I’ll be sure to read every one. To bring attention to your ideas, I’ll retweet as many as I can and may even feature your response in a follow-up article. Consider it my way of saying thanks!

My favorite way to thank customers is... #ExperienceThankfulness Click To Tweet

Gratitude is a powerful force. You can change someone’s day with a simple thank you. I encourage you to think of ways to thank customers that are meaningful and memorable.

Thank you for reading!

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience.

Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter.

Learn more here.

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