Small businesses face numerous challenges in an increasingly competitive global environment, but they have one clear advantage: the ability to offer superior personalized service to their customers. In celebration of PNC's Small Business Month and Women in Business Week (celebrated in May), here's a look at a few ways to thank your customers for their business and in the process build goodwill, loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals:
Know When to Say Thank You
Its standard practice to thank a customer upon completion of a purchase or order, but if that's all you're doing, you're missing a lot of opportunities to connect. Consider making a follow-up call or email a short time after the purchase to offer assistance, make helpful suggestions and find out if your customer has any questions or concerns. Similarly, you should follow up on any customer-service issue to make sure it has been handled to their satisfaction. If not, be prepared to escalate the response. You should also show your gratitude when someone mentions your company or product on social media, rates you on a review site or mentions you in a blog post. If the mention is a negative one, thank them for their feedback and begin taking steps to rectify the issue. In all these cases, it's important to keep on message and resist the temptation to pitch further sales.
Make It Personal
There are dozens of ways to say thank you, but they should always bear a personal touch: addressing your customer by name, referring to specifics of your relationship and being relevant and helpful to the circumstances. Any communication should include a way to reply by phone or email--preferably that will reach an actual human being and not automated reply functions. The level of personal attention you extend depends on time and resources, as well as the value of the customer to your business.
How to Say It
Given that personal thank-yous are the most appreciated, one of the best approaches is also one of the most old-fashioned: a handwritten note. Consider that customer-service reps at the phenomenally successful e-retailer Zappos are provided with stacks of blank note cards and encouraged to use them. For broader campaigns, you can automate offers such as giveaways, gift cards or discounts to go out when a customer reaches a certain predetermined threshold. Or organize an event exclusively for your best customers. The important thing to keep in mind is that any offering should reinforce your company's values and reputation. One example: a donation in your customer's name to a charity you support.