How to Show Appreciation to Your Customers

Small businesses that find a way to connect with their customers benefit in many ways, including word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business. Successful organizations know that establishing and building these relationships requires focus. It's about recognizing what a customer needs and delivering the best customer experience possible. Here are three ways you can show more appreciation and consideration for your customers on a daily basis.

Get to Know Customers and Prove Feedback Matters

Knowing your customers and understanding their business priorities is vital to providing a great customer experience. Survey your customers, hold focus groups, and spend one-on-one time with customers. What will make them happier?

Your customers likely provide daily clues about how you can serve them better. If you have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, use them to solicit customer feedback. Then, take action on that feedback. You’ll likely develop stronger, more intimate customer relationships by doing so, and your customers could remember and value your business more than they do the competition.

Denver-based Hammond's Candies makes fragile, handmade candies. A few years ago, many customers were receiving cracked or broken candy canes around the holidays. After testing numerous products and procedures, Hammond's found a way to pack the canes in a way that decreased breakage from 20 percent to 2 percent. The company invested in a new kind of packing material that forms around the canes to create an individual slot for each piece of candy. And, although the packing method was more expensive, it decreased the amount of replacements, credits, and customer complaints, and greatly increased the amount of happy customers.

Give Your Customers More

The first legal distiller in Loudoun County, VA, since Prohibition, Purcellville, VA–based Catoctin Creek Distilling Company distills fine organic spirits by hand. Owned by Becky and Scott Harris and founded in 2009, Catoctin Creek worked hard from day one to develop a strong social media presence they use to their advantage when it's time to bottle their products. Handcrafting spirits must be done on a regular basis and is labor-intensive. So for each bottling session, Catoctin Creek recruits 25 volunteer bottlers from its Facebook community.

So many customers want to help that Becky and Scott have to literally turn people away. In addition to receiving a distillery tour and lunch, volunteers can sign the labels of the bottles they help to produce. Since much of Catoctin Creek's inventory is sold nearby, volunteers can search for their signed bottles in local stores.

Think about providing unique or special experiences, or even valuable resources, to extend your customer relationships. Could a friend in an adjacent area who is an expert in something related to your business offer free classes at your location? If you own a bakery, might you offer free cake decorating classes, or even branch out by offering jam preserving classes? If you manage a manufacturing plant, could you offer your customers discounted, or even free, shipping during the off-season? If you're a consultant, might you extend a free hour of advisory services for one of your firm's specialties?

Be Your Customer's Customer

Your customers support you on a daily basis. Why not reciprocate?

One of Hammond's Candies' largest wholesale customers is Whole Foods Market. Aside from hosting team-building tours for Whole Foods employees at the Hammond's factory, Hammond's participates in the Whole Foods Market Gingerbread House in the Denver area every year. Each store creates an almost-life-sized gingerbread house for the holidays and Hammond's is proud to donate the candy to decorate it.

As part of its board of directors dinner a few years ago, my company, Sage, divided attendees into four teams and had them compete in a Top Chef-style challenge to benefit charity. Each team created a dish made with ingredients sourced from Sage customers and competed on behalf of charities that were also Sage customers. Each charity received a donation from Sage, with the winning team's charity receiving the largest donation.

So the next time you plan a special event or purchase supplies for your company, look for ways to give business to your customers.