Taking care of customers is something that Sam Walton was an expert on. He built the largest retailer in the world with the idea that you put the customer first and treat them better than they want to be treated, and they will keep coming back to you.
And you want them to keep coming back.
Studies show that it takes significantly more effort and resources to sell to new customers than to keep your current customers coming back (as shown in the table below). Alan Webber also validates this claim in his book “B2B Customer Experience Priorities in an Economic Downturn: Key Customer Usability Initiatives in a Soft Economy” stating it costs five times more to gain that new customer.
Sam Walton knew this. Part of his efforts to keep his customers coming back was ensuring that they felt appreciated. He was known for going through stores and talking to customers, always thanking them for coming in. When asked about his strategy, this was his response:
The founder of Walmart is not the only one that has identified the importance of treating the customer like they are the most important part of your business.
Being Wanted vs. Needed
Are they your boss? Are they your party guest? Use whatever analogy fits your business culture but, the customer pays the bills and keeps you in business. Period. But who wants to be treated like they are a bank roll? That may be confusing but, hear me out on this one.
I am a mom. I love being a mom and appreciate that my kids need me. When they were little, it was diaper changes, bottles, and keeping them warm. Now they’re teenagers – it’s car keys, running them around, a little money for activities, stocking their favorite snacks and guidance on good decision making. Their needs may change but, they still need me to fill their basic needs which, I will gladly do. But, what truly makes me happy is when they want me, not just need me. I feel valued when I am seen more than a driver, a bank, a housekeeper or a chef. When I am appreciated and thanked for what I do for them, but they talk to me and spend time with me as if no one in the world can fill my shoes. That, makes me feel values, appreciated and delighted to be their mom.
How can you help people feel appreciated?
Think about your own life and your interactions at your business, at other businesses, your religious services or at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Who makes you feel more valued and appreciated? What businesses get your business over and over again through good customer service but also, that make you feel appreciated and valued?
One idea is to do what Sam Walton was known for, steal shamelessly. In his book, “Made in America: My Story“, he made references to the facts that most of his best ideas on how to conduct his business were not his ideas at all, but he took the ideas of his competitors and made them better. You can absolutely do that.
As a small business owner, it may be hard to replicate some of the forms of appreciation you see as they cost a lot of money – providing gifts to customers, throwing big parties or have deep discounts on items. There are ways of doing this that are free or extremely low cost that make people feel appreciated and keep you in business.
5 Free Ways to Delight Your Customers in Appreciation
- Thank them in person. If the owner of a restaurant or the manager or the chef walks around talking to people, asking them how their food was and thanking them for coming, it makes them feel appreciated. We know how busy they can be so taking the time and giving a verbal thank you, makes people feel valued. If your cashier, secretary or phone operator thanks me for coming in or calling, even if I don’t make a purchase or schedule a service, that makes me feel like they want my business and it being the last thing I hear, may be the positive moment I remember about them.
- Send a thank you email. It doesn’t take much time and there are thousands of examples online on how to write this. Some sites you may want to visit for examples are WriteExpress and Templet.net. You could also write a personal paper letter which also has very high appreciation value but, this will cost you a little for paper and postage. One thing to remember: Make it as personal and unique to your customer as possible. They want to be appreciated because of who they are, not because they are just another customer. Identify what service or product they bought from you or when they came into your business – something that shows that you noticed specifically when they did business with you and that makes them feel special.
- Social media posts. Thank your customers on social media. If they have liked your business page, tag them. Take pictures of them (with approval, of course) and post them on social media. People love to see their faces or mentions on social media and this is a great way to thank them in a public setting.
- Make a blog about them. Do a write up on your customers or have a feature page for customers of the month. We love to have our stories told and in many instances, small business owners build relationships with their customers so it’s easy to find one willing. Ask your customer if you can write a little paragraph about them and how much your business means to you. One thing to remember: This must be a customer and their story must be true. No fairy tales or using family members to make it look like you have loyal customers. You will be discovered if you are not honest. Karma happens.
- Offer a surprise upgrade or additional service. Now I now what you are saying, this was supposed to be a free list of items – and it is. In many businesses, there are small upgrades that can be done with little to no cost to you, but that are understood to be an additional value to the customer. Some examples of these are:
- Additional air freshener with carpet cleaning/car cleaning
- Additional 15 minutes of free services or free consultation
- Free catalog, magazine or tips sheets
- Free gift wrapping (you may always do this around the holiday but need to remind them of the value)