Do You Really Need to Give Away Stuff to Keep a Customer?

“Give them something” is very often the answer to the questions “How can we show our customers we appreciate them?” and “What can we do to get that unhappy customer back?”

How many of your customers need another pen, another golf shirt, another mug or another hat?  How many other logoed items are they receiving from other companies they do business with?

It’s not that all customers hate stuff.  What customers like better than stuff is:

1.  Being treated like an individual person.  Smile.  Acknowledge them.  Offer to help.  Ask for their name and then use it.  Tell them your name.  Work to create a relationship over and above the dollar sign.  Recognize that some customers want to chat, some want to get right down to business.  Adapt your service delivery so that it’s great in their eyes, not yours.

2.  Hearing ‘thank you’.  A sincere thank you is a lot more meaningful than a pen or t-shirt.  Take some time to use that company pen of yours to write and mail a thank you note or a “we’ve missed seeing you” note.  Personalize the notes to that customer.  Use their name and incorporate one other piece of information specific or unique to the individual customer.

3.  You owning your mistakes. Customers don’t expect perfection all the time.  They want it, but don’t necessarily expect it.  What they do expect is recognition and acknowledgement when something does go wrong. They want to be listened to. They want you to understand their disappointment and they want an apology.  Yes, some people may want more than that, but a t-shirt or coupon for 15% off their next visit without empathy, understanding and apology is not enough.  You may  be surprised at how many customers are satisfied with sincere acknowledgement of their concern, an apology and a thank-you for sharing comment.  Those three things are in short supply. Giving them out freely, without reservation, means more than stuff to a whole lot of people.

It’s not that giving away stuff is a bad thing.  Some customers appreciate and expect the freebies, the extra little things they receive from you on an occasional basis.  It’s just not THE answer.   There are a lot of other companies doing that. Become the company your customers would come back to even if you never gave away ‘stuff’.

P.S.  These three tips also apply when discussing internal customer satisfaction strategies.

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