Businesses often narrowly focus on growth and what it takes to acquire a new customer.
But the investment into nourishing existing customers and showing them appreciation pays dividends.
In fact, acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one and increasing customer retention rates by just 5 percent can increase profits by up to 95 percent.
When customers feel genuinely valued, it strengthens their relationship with a business, increasing customer satisfaction, and ultimately, customer loyalty and lifetime value.
In this blog post, we’ll explore:
- What does customer appreciation mean?
- Why is customer appreciation important?
- Customer Appreciation Day
- How do you show customer appreciation?
- Customer appreciation gifts
What does customer appreciation mean?
Customer appreciation is the act of recognizing a customer’s value. Businesses show customers appreciation by becoming dedicated to improving customer satisfaction and fostering meaningful customer relationships.
What does customer appreciation mean to you?
The definition of customer appreciation varies depending on the kind of business.
Just like people have different love languages, businesses often express their appreciation towards customers differently. We asked three customer experience leaders what customer appreciation means to them:
Customer appreciation as a form of customer engagement
Customer gifting platform, Loop & Tie, defines customer appreciation as engaging customers to build relationships that go beyond a product or service.
“Customer appreciation means customer engagement, not just ‘rewards.’ It’s considering what customers need, taking that extra step of showing care and thoughtfulness, said Benish Shah, Chief Growth Officer, Loop & Tie.
Customer appreciation as a way of actively listening to customers
For Zappos, customer appreciation is about listening to customers to build personal, emotional connections and glean feedback into how the business can improve, according to Harmoni Hines, Senior Manager, Customer Loyalty Team, Zappos.
“Our Customer Loyalty Team gets to engage with customers every day, so for us, appreciation is all about listening to them,” Hines said. “Sometimes this means celebrating with customers when they call us—whether it’s in regards to an upcoming wedding or a first marathon, we always strive to forge a meaningful connection and hear what’s going on in their lives. Our customers also have great feedback and our Customer Loyalty Team members are constantly looking for opportunities to improve the customer experience.”
Customer appreciation as a business’ ability to create an effortless customer experience
Customer appreciation is about creating an effortless customer experience, according to Holly Vande Walle, Director, Training and Quality Assurance, Zendesk.
“In customer support, this means everyone has tools to recognize each customer’s unique case,” Vande Walle said. “You show customers appreciation when you clearly understand the context, intent, and urgency behind their issue so they don’t have to wait on hold, repeat information, or be bounced between departments.”
The takeaway is this: no matter how a business defines customer appreciation, it all goes back to ensuring customers feel valued and building better relationships.
Why is customer appreciation important?
Customer appreciation goes beyond the success of an organization’s customer service team—it impacts a business’ bottom line.
In fact, 68 percent of customers stop doing business with a company because they believe it doesn’t care for them, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Here are a few benefits of showing customers appreciation.
- Higher customer satisfaction and renewed customer loyalty
- Increased customer lifetime value
- Differentiation from competitors
- Boosted brand reputation
- Greater support during a crisis
Customer appreciation, satisfaction, and loyalty are all closely related, according to Vande Walle. “Customer appreciation is important because it directly impacts CSAT and customers will reward a business with brand loyalty when they feel appreciated,” she said.
“Customer appreciation is important because it directly impacts CSAT and customers will reward a business with brand loyalty when they feel appreciated.”Holly Vande Walle, Director, Training and Quality Assurance, Zendesk
Customers won’t just return to a business when they feel appreciated, research also showed they’ll spend more when they do, increasing their lifetime value.
“Customer appreciation is how you stand out from competition,” said Vande Walle.
With 89 percent of companies competing on customer experience, an organization's ability to recognize customers represents a sweet spot where it can differentiate beyond its product or service.
88 percent of customers are influenced by a company’s reviews when making a purchase decision, according to a Zendesk study.
Verification from others can even influence buying behavior more than offering discounts.
When customers feel appreciated, they’re more inclined to become brand advocates and write positive reviews, tell their friends about their experience, or talk about brands positively on social media.
“When a customer takes time to fill out a customer satisfaction survey, give you a positive rating, or leave nice feedback, you know they feel truly appreciated,” explained Vande Walle.
Customer appreciation is important during times of prosperity as well as uncertainty.
And uncertain times are inevitable—whether it’s a PR nightmare, service disruption, or pandemic. When customers feel supported, they’re more likely to stick around during highs and lows.
Customer Appreciation Day
On Customer Appreciation Day businesses go out of their way to thank their customers.
Customer Appreciation Day is on April 18th, but brands sometimes choose their own day to celebrate or plan a customer appreciation week.
However, customer appreciation shouldn’t be tied to a single day or week and companies don’t have to spend a lot of money or do something elaborate to show customers they’re appreciated.
More often than not, it’s little, everyday things, that stick with customers, like solving their issues quickly or proactively reaching out before a problem escalates.
“You can tell when an agent shows you true appreciation, and it doesn’t take much, said Vande Walle. “You don’t have to give free stuff or even reduce cost: Customers mostly want to know you understand their use case and feel like their issue is important.”
10 inexpensive ways to show customers appreciation that work
Showing customers you appreciate them doesn’t require heavy lifting, yet many don’t feel truly valued: “Most customers are in a neutral space where they don’t not feel appreciated but they don’t feel an abundance of appreciation either,” according to Vande Walle.
To close this customer appreciation gap, a business will need to become dedicated to expressing gratitude towards customers and make it an ongoing effort. Here are 10 everyday customer appreciation ideas.
- Practice empathy
- Use feedback
- Deliver personalization
- Be proactive
- Build a customer-focused culture
- Support causes customers care about
- Go the extra mile
- Send thank you cards
- Give thoughtful gifts
1. Practice empathy
More often than not, customers just want to feel understood. This requires a customer service team—and the entire company—to practice customer empathy.
Zappos is so serious about empathy and connection that their customers can call or text their Customer Loyalty Team to talk about anything—whether they’re feeling lonely on a Saturday night or looking for Netflix recommendations.
Customer Loyalty Team members are empowered to do what it takes to build relationships, even if it means longer resolution times.
“Now, more than ever before, customers just need someone to talk to and we’re happy to lend an ear. Our Customer Loyalty Team can stay on a call as long as necessary,” said Hines—Zappos’ longest call was 10 hours and 51 minutes, but calls lasting around two hours happen every day.
“Now, more than ever before, customers just need someone to talk to and we’re happy to lend an ear. Our Customer Loyalty Team can stay on a call as long as necessary." Harmoni Hines, Senior Manager, Customer Loyalty Team, Zappos
2. Show customers you’re listening with context
If a customer doesn’t feel heard and has to repeat themselves while being bounced between departments or waiting on hold, they aren’t going to feel valued.
Context gives teams the ability to show customers they’re always listening.
“In today’s world, we have access to data and systems that allow us to take notes and access context so we can come to customers more educated than square one and not ask the same cheesy softball questions, like ‘what’s your email and account type?’” said Vande Walle.
Agents should have basic, direct context, like a customer’s contact information or previous issue—no matter what channel a customer reaches out on.
How can you improve customer appreciation?
A business can improve customer appreciation by simply listening to customers.
To show customers you're actively listening, arm agents with context such as:
- A customer's account type
- Contact information
- Their historical issues
That’s only half the story, though.
When a business unifies customer information from different sources—such as mobile apps, billing systems, or marketing software—into one complete picture across the business, it ensures everyone can access context like a customer’s product usage, abandoned shopping carts, and opened outbound emails: information customers tell you indirectly, but assume you already know.
Taking it a step further, businesses should also clearly understand context coming from a conversation itself, such as sentiment. Agents can use AI to read sentiment from a live conversation and predict satisfaction in real-time, so they’re more attuned to upset customers and can salvage the interaction.
3. Create a feedback loop
Businesses can create a feedback loop to strengthen their customer appreciation strategy. For example:
- Send satisfaction surveys and analyze low scores. Support managers can use that data to build better advocate or agent coaching.
- Create a Voice of the Customer program and share feedback across the business, such as having support reps share feature requests and pain points with product teams to inform product updates.
- Use a community forum as a virtual focus group. Feedback coming from a community forum is valuable because it’s organic and naturally occurring—in other words; customers aren’t being influenced to say anything, compared to a traditional, organized focus group where a moderator might indirectly impact their responses.
4. Use data to personalize service in a way that genuinely serves customers
A great customer experience isn’t about simply solving a customer’s question and getting on with your day.
It’s about clearly understanding each customer’s unique case to deliver personalized responses at scale.
In fact, a Zendesk survey revealed that 76 percent of customers expect personalization, which can include:
- Engaging with a customer over their preferred contact method
- Tailoring messages based on account type or lifecycle status
- Having insight into a customer’s preferences and using that information to create a better experience
Providing value in personalized services makes the difference between being dismissed as spam and building brand loyalty.
How do you make customers feel special?
Personalized experiences make customers feel special. Engaging with customers on channels of their choice is a great place to start.
Fun fact: Messaging apps have the highest customer satisfaction rating of any channel, with a CSAT of 98 percent, according to Zendesk findings.
5. Deliver proactive experiences
Proactive support—anticipating customers’ needs and getting in front of an issue before it escalates or even happens—helps build customer trust and long-term relationships.
An e-commerce company can get ahead of abandoned shopping carts by deploying a chatbot on its checkout page to answer frequently asked customer questions.
Or, an internet provider can send customers a text about upcoming service disruptions.
Vande Walle also recommends proactively giving customers grace during downturns to show you’re empathetic, acknowledging they might need a break before they ask.
6. Build a customer-focused culture
Customer appreciation isn’t a responsibility that falls on customer support or any single team to express on behalf of the entire organization. It needs to be at the core of a business’s DNA—everyone within the company needs to put their focus on customers.
For instance, customer appreciation is who Zappos is, according to Hines. So much so every team takes customer service calls in their new hire training, ensuring they build human connections with customers.
“One of Zappos’ 10 Core Values is to build a positive team and family spirit—and to us, our customers are family,” said Hines.
7. Support causes your customers care about
“Customers want businesses to make more substantial contributions to causes they care about, such as diversity and inclusion and COVID-19 response,” said Vande Walle. This means donating time, money, empathy—whatever a business can give—to causes aligning with its customer’s values.
8. Go the extra mile
If you have the bandwidth, go the extra mile.
Exceeding customers’ expectations pays off—77 percent of customers would recommend a company after having a positive experience with it.
Zappos tries to make it easy for its Customer Loyalty Team to go the extra mile for customers. “If we have a customer who mentions the loss of a loved one, we’ll likely send flowers,” said Hines. “We’ve even flown customers to Las Vegas to hang out with us on campus.”
9. Send thank you cards
How do you thank a customer for buying from you?
Gratitude is important. Sometimes customers just want to know a business is thinking of them.
Sending a customer a personalized appreciation letter builds a more human experience. Try Zendesk’s Thank You Machine to create personalized, eco-friendly customer appreciation emails and thank you cards.
10. Surprise and delight with gifts
Gifts can be a delightful way to show someone you value their relationship—whether it’s a friend or a customer.
Gifting customers can increase net promoter scores (NPS), deal close rates, and contract renewals, according to Shah.
Below are some tips for when to send customers gifts and how to do it right:
Customer appreciation gifts
Types of customer appreciation gifts
Customer gifting is a year-round affair that’s relevant at every stage of a customer relationship, according to Shah. Here are a few types of customer appreciation gifts, based on gifting occasion:
- Prospecting gifts
- Closing gifts
- Gifts for traditional occasions
- What Shah calls “check-in” moments or surprise and delight moments
- “Make-Right” gifts
If you can’t get a prospect on the phone, Shah said, send them a gift to get their attention: Prospecting gifts can increase meetings scheduled.
This is a tradition in deal closings: you send a gift to your client and team.
This might include anniversaries, holidays, or when a customer hits a new spend threshold. “Gifting is a great way to celebrate life moments with customers,” explained Shah.
These live outside of birthdays, anniversaries, and contract renewals and are a great opportunity to remind customers they matter.
These are critical when something goes wrong and a business wants to show customers it’s truly sorry.
Customer appreciation gift ideas
Gifting is about thoughtfulness, personalization, and creating a positive correlation to your brand, according to Shah. Expensive or cleverly packaged gifts don’t necessarily get word-of-mouth traction: it's the thoughtful gift that gets customers to think about your brand positively.
"Gifting is about thoughtfulness; when you give a gift, it’s a representation of your brand as much as it is a gesture to the recipient.” Benish Shah, Chief Growth Officer, Loop & Tie
Here are a few customer appreciation gift ideas:
- Charitable giving, like a donation to a charity of a customer's choice or a gift from a social impact brand
- A trending tech product, like headphones, speakers, or an Apple Watch
- Early access to pilot programs
- Loyalty programs, like Sephora's Beauty Insider rewards program where customers choose gifts based on a point system or My Starbucks Rewards where Starbucks customers earn free drinks and food through Starbucks' mobile app
- Referral programs, such as how Harry's customers get free merchandise each time they refer a friend, and that friend gets a discount
- Office supplies, like a desk plant or notebook
- Wellness gifts, such as a candle or virtual yoga class
- A gift card, to their favorite coffee shop or Amazon
- An activity, like a puzzle
- A book that's relevant to their industry
- An experience with your brand, such as a joint volunteer day or free pass to your annual event
Since the right gift depends on the customer and gift occasion, Shah said it’s more helpful to think about what gifts are not good ideas:
- Alcohol, unless you know for a fact your recipient drinks, this can be offensive
- Food, unless you know the dietary restrictions of your customer
- Overly-branded items that are more about you than the customer
“Accidentally sending meat to someone that keeps kosher or is vegetarian or sausage to a customer that eats halal can sour a relationship because it creates a mental correlation,” said Shah.
Shah’s rule of thumb is if you’ve seen it at the free table at your office, don’t send something similar to your customer. “Brands often take gifting to mean ‘send branded water bottles!’ because it feels like a lost marketing opportunity. But a good gift experience gets people talking about your brand faster and longer than one-size-fits-all branded items,” explained Shah.
Improve customer appreciation
Like old friends, customer loyalty is gold. When a brand floats genuine appreciation towards its customers, it starts building better, more human relationships with them. So remember: Don’t overthink it. Little, everyday things can have lasting impact.