Ongoing Customer Loyalty: Add Customer Appreciation Tactics to Your Strategy

John Michel
John Michel

woman filming social media video for customer appreciation

No matter the external factors at play, all decisions are driven by emotions, which influence how we buy—whether we know it or not. Michael Levine of Psychology Today says rationality only represents about 20% of human decision-making—meaning emotions drive the other 80% of the choices we make.

(And forget about making a decision when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tried. The acronym “HALT” is exactly the point here: DON’T DO IT! If you make a decision while feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired emotion wins 100% of the time. Just remember the Snickers commercial, “you’re not you when you’re hungry.”)

It’s no surprise emotions intensify during a crisis which can lead to making irrational decisions.

Eighty-seven percent (87%) of customers who say they had a great experience will make another purchase from the company, compared to 18% of customers who had a very poor experience.

These intensified emotional states can provide businesses with an unprecedented opportunity to start a two-way conversation and build relationships with consumers. People are looking for companies and brands they can trust now more than ever. That means having a clear purpose the consumer can relate with. Those that pass this critical test have an opportunity to create a long-term emotion connection with consumers. And those companies who provide true value? They win.

Why care? Research shows that customers are likely to mention a positive customer experience to an average of nine people, while they are likely tell 16 people about negative experiences. Bottom line, customers who enjoy positive experiences are likely to spend 140% more than customers who report negative experiences.

What Is Customer Appreciation Marketing?

Customer Appreciation Marketing is a proactive approach to engaging customers and showing them that you care and you are grateful for their business. It might include not only a company’s efforts toward its customers through expressions of thanks, but also meaningful apologies when needed. Having a solid customer appreciation strategy in place provides the foundation for increasing satisfaction, loyalty and retention. In fact, Professor John Gattorna at Macquarie Graduate School of Management found that 68% of customers that leave and go elsewhere do so because their perception is that the business doesn’t care about them anymore.

It’s a shocking statistic especially when you consider that only 14% will leave because they’re dissatisfied with the service—meaning they are five times more likely to leave because they think you’re indifferent to them than because of delays, mistakes, or other types of ‘bad’ service.

Imagine leaving these interactions to chance, instead of implementing an effective customer appreciation strategy to show customers that you care? This is the thought process that will truly differentiate companies who embrace it. As I mentioned on my LinkedIn blog, I learned long ago from Simple Minds’ classic song that people long to be recognized and demand that “don’t you forget about me.”

Give Your Customers a Reason to Stay

Many companies are looking at how the customer experience will change in the future and what they may need to do to accommodate those needs. But the future is already here. New consumer types have sprung up around the globe. Being innovative in this “new world” and finding a way to stay relevantly connected will be the game changer.

“It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.”
—Seth Godin

Now is the time to get creative and experiment with ways to authentically invest in the relationship with your customers:

  • Innovative activation campaigns with enticing prizes are a great hook to get your existing customers to continue supporting your business. For example, Coors Light is giving away up to $1 million worth of beer—which equates to up to 500,000 cold ones—through its #CouldUseABeer campaign, which allows people to send a beer to someone “who could use a bit of refreshment.” 
  • Hosting a Facebook or Instagram Live video is a great way to let your customers know where the company is going and what will be happening next. Chaco moved their cross-country tour program to social media, launching weekly Instagram Stories takeovers (“CHILLOuts”) by featured experts who serve up tips on leveraging mindfulness at home like tips for reducing and the reward of being a “plant parent” and all its benefits.
  • Consider swag sponsorships—having tie-ins with other businesses and conducting shared promotions mean bringing in their customers over to your enterprise. When a wine festival had to go virtual, the event's sponsor, an association of regional automobile dealers, got its logo on a "hang tag" that was put on a wine bottle sent to every attendee, which invited the attendee to bring that tag to the closest dealer for a test drive. In return, the virtual attendee would then be entered into a drawing for four tickets to the actual face-to-face festival, which had been rescheduled.
  • Send them a little something—small simple gestures often don’t cost much, when you compare them to the lifetime value of a loyal (who, evidence suggests, are worth 10x their initial purchase).

There are many different ways, both simple and creative, a brand can utilize to make customers feel like it cares about them. And sometimes showing you care means saying you’re sorry.

Customer Apologies Can Be Hard, But Necessary When Warranted

Apologies can be tricky; using gratitude, empathy and kindness can go a long way. A study from the Nottingham School of Economics found that customers are twice as likely to forgive companies who apologize. And check out these examples:

  • Exceeding the standard timeframe for apologies, the Financial Times reported Wells Fargo took the time to imagine how their customers felt after they experienced unexpected delays in refinancing their mortgage. They decided to take the bold step of actually apologizing for longer than usual timeframes to process loans due to unprecedented volumes caused by sharp interest rate decline. The innovative program apologized with a sincere note from a senior executive that included the right message and a small gift.
  • A leading pest control company leveraged an apology gift offer to customers that terminated contracts due to service issues. Again, putting themselves in the place of their customers, they were able to turn an otherwise poor experience into a chance at sustaining a long-term customers. This well received program not only retained valuable profitable customers, but generated a 9 to 1 ROI.

The value of positive experience cannot be denied. As you work to address business issues the current crisis is causing, be sure to keep the consumer in mind. They are looking hard at those brands who take care of them during these challenging times. And they’ll show their appreciation through continued loyalty and spending.

To begin instilling a customer service mentality across your organization, clearly define those great service elements, then apply them. Creating a successful customer experience strategy relies on interdependency across different teams and functional groups—What Are You Doing to Inspire a Customer Service Mentality Company-wide?

John Michel

John Michel

John began his marketing and sales career three decades ago with two of the most admired companies—Disney and Mars Inc., learning the lessons of world-class branding initiatives and best practices of marketing initiatives. Before long he was applying this knowledge and expertise toward helping other Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies develop the right strategies to drive business results and achieve success. He enjoys the relationships that have grown out of service. John’s earned numerous industry and professional awards, acknowledgements and recognition over his career, and has been an active on numerous local, state and national boards. In his journey of continuous improvement, he pushed past all rational limitations and walked barefoot across 1,000-degree hot coals—twice! A symbolic experience that has given him the courage to take on any challenge.