Customer loyalty – How to say thank you the right way

By: Lauren Reed

It’s November. This is the time of year we all focus on giving thanks. It might be the only month that my gratitude journal gets opened and actually written in every single day. (I’m working on it, OK? Maybe 2020 will be my year for daily gratitude journaling.)

This is also the season where clients are asking us the best way to show thanks to their customers. But with so many ways to do this, what is the best way to say thank you? It’s a seemingly simple act that, from our perspective, many tend to overcomplicate.


Loyalty programs vs. giving thanks

First, we should define what we mean by giving thanks and customer loyalty programs. While many brands are effectively saying thank you through loyalty programs, please don’t feel this is the only way.

Logically, the two go somewhat hand-in-hand. Saying thank you builds loyalty, but a loyalty program isn’t the only way to show your customers how thankful you are. Also, we shouldn’t only say thank you to build loyalty or get a return purchase, but we should do so because it’s just downright the polite thing to do.

To simply say thank to your clients and customers this holiday season, consider some of the following options:

  • A handwritten note
  • A gift that is proportionate to the amount they’re spending with you. This could range from a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant to tickets to a special event.
  • Upgrades or additional services
  • A “thank you” event – for example, our agency hosts a Galentine’s Day party every year at Sinema for agency clients and friends


But Lauren, you say, I really want to set up a loyalty program.

OK, great!  It seems that nearly every business has some sort of loyalty program these days, so I can understand that desire. We’ve found that the best programs, meaning those that are used most often and drive loyalty as they are intended, have several things in common.


Provide value for the customer

While this seems pretty self-explanatory, you’d be amazed at how many businesses get it wrong. The most successful loyalty programs provide an extra value for the customer. Whether the customer receives points toward a reward of a similar item (think buying 10 burritos and getting one free) or they receive an added value with a purchase they’re already making, the reward should be something they actually want. Gone are the days when a free collector’s item with a purchase drove loyalty.

Additionally, we’ve found the more upscale the business, the less customers are looking for discounts, and the more they’d like to receive additional perks.  For example, Nordstrom offers its Nordy Club members early access to sales and other shopping events, free tailoring and curbside pickup.


Make it simple

The easier your rewards program is to understand, the better. Not only does it make your customer more likely to engage with the program, but it also keeps things simple for your employees and makes it easy to reiterate to customers.

A few tips:

  • Consider programs that include points per dollar or easy to understand levels.
  • Rotate your offers infrequently. If your rewards are constantly changing it can cause confusion with your customers and team members.
  • Provide a single touchpoint for redemption. Whether this is your mobile app or a simple punch card, one way to keep track of rewards is best. You can also drive customers in a direction where it’s easy and efficient to communicate with them.


Encourage a return purchase or referral

The best loyalty programs do just as they’re intended – they encourage customers to return for another purchase or to send their friends and family your way. For example, offering a coupon upon purchase for use at a later date similar to the way REI gives to all its customers who spend a certain amount. Their coupon becomes valid a few weeks from the purchase date, encouraging customers to come back for those hiking pants they passed over the first time.   

Whether you’re writing a personal note or giving a cashback reward, staying true to who your customers know you to be should be at the heart of your program. Remember to make it easy for them, make it something they want and encourage them to engage with you. As with any thank you, the most important thing is to make sure it’s sincere.

And remember – your customers are one of your most critical assets, but not the only one. Stay tuned next month as we talk about employee relations programs.


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