Surprise Your Most Loyal Customers

How much is a loyal customer worth? Most multichannel sellers have a small group of extremely loyal customers who buy year in and year out, or come back annually making substantial purchases. Yet they are often treated no differently than the balance of the house list.

What do you do to make your very, very best customers feel appreciated? Considering how much they purchase, and how you spend almost nothing to bring them back again, probably not enough.

These folks are often rewarded by more catalogs in their mailbox and/or more promotional e-mails. This is good for you, but how can you make them feel like it’s good for them, too? What can you do to keep them from feeling like they’re being hit on one more time?

E-mail: Show your best customers you really appreciate them. If you send them a special sale e-mail “for our best customers only,” then really mean it. Tell them that they’re in the top 1%, the cream of your crop, and give them a really terrific bargain. Just assume that if you don’t tell them this, they will believe they are getting the same sale as everyone else. And that does not make them feel very special, does it?

Web: Offer best-customer access to great content on your site. Create a “registered gold members only” section that will have some appropriate added-value information, advice, guidelines, recipes…something to thank them instead of just asking them for more money. They will thank you with more purchases.

Award them a Gold Customer status: Make sure they have their Gold Customer number, which they can use to get special offers such as free shipping on anything (when everyone else has to pay for shipping) or some small, special gift. Implement this program across all of your channels so that even if you have a retail outlet, your retailers bring up their number when they shop, and they get special treatment. “Oh, I see, Mrs. Worthington-Levy, that you’re one of our Gold Customers. We want to thank you so much for your continued business!” This extra courtesy costs you nothing but a moment of time, and it means more than you may realize.

Send them an unsolicited gift: As a Talbot’s customer, a few years ago I received a gift that cost them little, but it meant a lot—a quality ‘croc’ patterned leather key fob. I still have that key fob with a little golden Talbot’s tag on it, and each time it makes me feel good about shopping there. Granted, I have been a great customer averaging a couple of suits each year, plus other basics—so they’ve gotten a lot from me. But most would never even think of rewarding me so unconditionally without attaching a ‘must visit request’ or turn in a coupon, etc. They just said a good, old-fashioned, “Thank You.” And as a customer, it felt great to be appreciated.

At a time when you’re probably feeling inundated with paper price hikes, postage increases, and so many other decisions that will cost money, you are perhaps thinking that this is a concept you want to set aside for a better day.

But when you have a top-tier customer like that, now is a better day to tell them you really appreciate their patronage. And, just as I’ve told you about Talbot’s key fob gift to me, they’ll tell dozens of others who will begin thinking of you as someone they want to shop with, too.

Carol Worthington-Levy is creative partner at San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultancy Lenser.

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