Giving thanks for your customers
Last week's mail included the first holiday greeting of the season -- for Thanksgiving. One of our vendors sends us an eye-catching Thanksgiving card every year, thanking us for our business. This is an approach I started my first year in business.
What I love about this custom is that our greeting never gets lost in the shuffle. We get relatively few cards in November. They are memorable.
Beyond that, the sentiment is really important. As a customer, I think: "They want us to know they are thankful that we are their customers. They want to keep our business. They've offered to go the extra mile. They think we're important!"
Have you thanked your customers lately? I mean, besides when you get the order? Do they know how much they mean to you?
Customer appreciation is not a wise area in which to economize. Your sales force and customer service staff need support that starts at the top. The boss should set the tone for customer appreciation because without customers, the boss doesn't have any reason to come to work.
Customers who feel appreciated are more likely to be loyal to their vendors. Price is rarely the most important consideration when making a buying decision. In fact, service and quality consistently rank above price in purchasing choices. Customers understand that they get what they pay for. They deserve to believe that they are your most important customer!
So customer appreciation means every day is Thanksgiving Day. Never pass up an opportunity to let your customers know what their business means to you.
It isn't necessary to go to extremes. In addition to the memorable Thanksgiving card that we received, let me share some great ideas that folks have shared with me:
- Treats! Send -- or drop off -- a great fruit basket, cookies or a sandwich tray. Can you add a little fun? One sales rep perks things up during the hot summer months with root beer float parties. She arranges a date with the manager, and then shows up with root beer (regular and diet), ice cream, cups, straws and long spoons. Double bonus: it is not only a great reminder of her gratitude for the business, but it gives the office staff a morale booster too.
- Drawings. Once a week, once a month, or once a year, offer a prize that can be used at your customer's business. Could be some of your products, a plant, a restaurant certificate, a television -- use your imagination. Make a big deal when you present it. A giant "thank you for your business" note with your name prominently
featured should be attached.
- Extra attention. Make sure you are aware of
delivery dates and follow up promptly with the customer. Was the order complete and on time? Any other service that they need? Finally, "thanks again, it was a pleasure doing business with you. And I'll check back with you in a few weeks/months/specified time."
- Celebrate the customer's big days. Keep track of corporate anniversaries, product launches, promotions, office moves and awards. Make sure your handwritten card gets mailed or delivered ASAP. Wish them well and don't pass up the opportunity to say thanks again for their very valuable business.
- And above all, deliver more than you promise, every single day. While most customers are satisfied just getting their orders correct, they are delighted when the product, service, quality and value exceed their expectations. Nothing says I value your business like going the extra mile.
What happens when you don't follow these rules? Consider the story of the butcher who laid an egg. A man ran into the butcher shop just before closing on the day before Thanksgiving. "You've got to help me," he said. "I told my wife I'd bring home a turkey for tomorrow's dinner, and I forgot! Do you have any turkeys left?"
"Well, I'll see," the butcher said, and he went into the cooler. He found only one thin, scrawny turkey, which he brought for the customer to look over.
The man shook his head. "Haven't you got anything else?"
Hiding his irritation, the butcher headed back to the cooler, taking the turkey with him. There were no others, so after a few minutes he brought the same turkey out again. "Took me a while, but I found this one."
The customer sighed. "All right. I'll take 'em both."Mackay's Moral: If you want your customers to give thanks for you, make every day Thanksgiving for them.