40 Inexpensive Customer Appreciation Ideas

Customer loyalty is always a hot topic. We're fascinated by the factors that lead customers to form strong relationships with brands.

And just like any good relationship, it's important to give and take. A brand can never show too much appreciation for its customers.

The beauty of customer appreciation is that it can be expressed in countless ways. The key is to make customers feel valued and cared for.

To that end, we've compiled a list of 40 simple and affordable ways for brands to show their customers some love:

  1. Freebies - Give a customer a cookie, a donut, or some popcorn. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how people go ga-ga for free food.

  2. Invest in good customer service - Some companies actually profit from bad customer service. Don't be that company. Studies show that people actually reward brands that help them resolve issues without actually having to deal with customer service.  Being a company that makes things right is one of the best ways to make your customers feel appreciated.

  3. Follow back - Don't be a social media snob! If a customer follows you, show them some love and follow them back. It's a small gesture that says "hey, I value your opinion." Plus, it's free - so why not?

  4. Coupons - Besides being great drivers of new and targeted business, coupons are probably the easiest, most basic way of showing a customer some love. Bonus points for coupons based on their purchasing history.

  5. Handwritten letters - No list of customer appreciation suggestions would be complete without a call for handwritten letters. And for good reason - they work. Yes, they take some time, but consider doing one a day. Don’t be Hemingway, no novels - just a few lines saying thanks.

  6. Train staff to learn (and use) first names - A person’s first name is the most important sound in the world. Saying it to someone shows they’re more than just a customer.

  7. Surprise and delight - pick a customer, maybe one that needs a pick-me-up, and delight them by giving them something just for being a loyal customer.

  8. Pre-sale heads-up (not marketing blasts) - Keep a little black book with your best customers’ contact information. Then notify them of new products and sales ahead of time.

  9. Offer deals at other (non-competing) brands - People love coupons, and they’re a great way of pairing your brand with other beloved brands. Want an example? Check out how Access teamed up with this national credit card to engage customers and increase spending.

  10. Pre- or after-hours private events - Open your business to your best customers, and just them alone. Give them food and drinks and entertainment, or simply give them the first crack at purchasing your new product. (This works really well in conjunction with the bullet above.)

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  11. Randomly cover a customer’s cost on occasion - Why not spread some joy by surprising a lucky customer with a free purchase? It's a great way to pay it forward and make someone's day a little brighter.

  12. Giveaways - Whether it’s placing business cards in a bowl or a social media contest, contests and giveaways are a proven method of exciting people to action.

  13. Learn something, share it - This one is important for those in B2B and more professionally-minded fields. If you know something that will help someone succeed when using your product, or you find a great industry resource online, share it on social media.
  14. Remind customers of how you’re utilizing their feedback - Candid feedback is one of the best ways to maintain the pulse of your customers. The perception is most brands ignore customer feedback, so customers will love you when you notify them of the specific changes you’ve made in response to their comments.

  15. Create a charitable giving program - People love patronizing businesses that genuinely do good. Set aside a portion of your proceeds to give to a good cause. Maybe you can partner with local schools, and give an annual amount. Maybe you can establish a fund that sets aside a small amount whenever a customer buys a premium product. Don't forget to take plenty of pictures and post them on your social media.

  16. Share their stories - Case studies are a great business development tool, but they’re also a great way to show a customer that they’re a headliner for your brand.

  17. Birthday specials - While even just a basic “Happy Birthday” email has some positive benefit, but you can really pump up the value by offering a discount or freebie - redeemable for the entire week. Don’t just assume people are coming to see you on their birthday, stand out by giving them some time to come in and celebrate with you.

  18. Schwag - Stick your logo on some USB drives, stuffed animals, beer koozies, phone chargers, whatever. It’s a bit trite and self-promotional, but people love getting something for nothing. If that something makes them think of you, then that’s positive engagement, and worth investing in.

  19. Respond online - Half of all social media users complain about brands, but only a third of those issues are actually addressed. Respond to everything on all channels. If that’s not possible, then respond as much as you can. It’s not just about appreciation - 71% of consumers who experience a quick and effective brand response are likely to recommend that brand to others.

  20. Build a loyalty program - It doesn’t have to be complex, something as simple as a punch card may work. But the more value it adds, and the more relevant it is to the individual, the more successful it’ll be.

  21. Post-transaction gifts - Give people something related to what they’ve purchased from you. The bigger the transaction, the more important this one is.

  22. Think of the kids - The quickest way to a parent’s heart is something that can occupy or distract their young children. This is why auto dealerships have play areas and popcorn, or some grocers have supervised nurseries.

  23. Train your staff on personalities and relating - Not every person is a people person, but everyone can learn the basics of communication and how to recognize different personality types. To a customer, there’s no person in the company more important than the person in front of them, whether that’s the CEO or the receptionist.

  24. Loosen up the return policy - Many companies have become more reasonable in their return policies lately, and everyone loves doing business with one of the few who back up their products for life. At a minimum, consider adding special return policies to members of your loyalty program.

  25. Coffee and water - If your business requires lengthy meetings or waits, then this is almost essential. They may not notice if you don’t have these staples, but they’ll appreciate it if you do.

  26. Price matching - Grocery stores and other retailers have promised this service for years, but how many other businesses are willing to go along with it? If you have a competitor, and we’re betting most of you do, then price matching is worth considering.

  27. Samples - Yes, this works for Costco and Sam’s Club, but the concept works across industries. Free trials, test drives, and beta programs are all ways of promoting products as well as giving something of value to the customer. Another side benefit is that when you need to ask them for a favor, the law of reciprocity will make them far more likely to say yes. That's because giving away stuff usually has benefits of its own.

  28. Go to them - If you know where your customer works, or you have a home address, send them something they would like. Nothing too big, just a candy bar, or box of cookies. It’ll grab their attention (and in an office, it’ll get the attention of their coworkers).

  29. Free upgrades - If you add a new service or upgrade a product, consider giving it away to your best customers.

  30. baseball-little-league-53TmDnb-jtM-unsplashSponsor locals - Put your name on a banner at the local high school football field, or add your logo to a Little League uniform. Think Chico’s Bail Bonds brought in a ton of business from sponsoring the Bad News Bears? Probably not, but it’s a nice, inexpensive way to show some community support, and they were probably solicited to do so by a customer (Morris Buttermaker?).

  31. Share your own “amuse-bouche” - In fine dining restaurants, many chefs have an amuse-bouche, or a special bite (or small plate) specially created by their own hand, and often reserved for only the best customers. What can you give customers that is unique to your brand, or you personally?

  32. Invest in employee retention - As we mentioned previously,  employees are likely to have the greatest impact on the customer experience than just about anything else. So, the less turnover you have, the better the experience is going to be for customers, and the more service-oriented your employees will become.

  33. Holiday cards - Combine this one with a handwritten note, and you’ll definitely capture some hearts and minds (in a spending season, nonetheless).

  34. Sponsor other giveaways - Whether a school raffle or a blogger contest, offering something to give away is as much about building relationships as it is about generating new business.

  35. Candy at the front desk - Put a bowl of candy anywhere in your office, and people will naturally gravitate to it.

  36. Do something extra - What’s the extra mile? Go there. Deliver your service, even though you don’t deliver. Pick up a customer whose car has broken down. Offer to dog sit. Personal connections matter a lot, and friends do kind things for each other with no expectation of return.

  37. Community board - If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice many of our suggestions revolve around community involvement, which is great for customer appreciation as well as promotion. If you have a brick and mortar location, a community board with upcoming events and contacts is an easy way to show people you’re involved.

  38. Have a specific day/week/month dedicated to customer appreciation - Having a Customer Appreciation Week (or whatever your preferred time frame is) is basically a big, public declaration that you appreciate your customers, and you want reward them in a way they will most appreciate...some great deals or free give-aways.

  39. Solicit feedback whenever possible - We can’t proclaim this enough. Give your customers a voice anytime they come into contact with your brand. Here are 20 ideas to solicit more feedback.

  40. Use your data - You’re collecting data on customers, especially if you have a loyalty program. Turn that Big Data into Big Delivery by getting personal (not creepy) with customers. Recommendations, suggestions, tailored communications - studies have shown that people respond to personalization.

Loyalty Statistics The Ultimate Collection

Can You Feel the Love?

This list is not comprehensive, but it includes a ton of inexpensive ways to show customer appreciation. If you have ideas, then by all means share them in the comments below.

The other thing about this list is most companies don’t do any of these. That means doing even just the small things on the list, such as a coupon here and there or a post-transaction “thanks” email can make a big difference.

Like any successful relationship, the love has to go both ways. If you’re wanting customers to show their love for you, start by showing your love for them.

(Thanks image courtesy of Betsy Weber)

Topics: Customer Engagement, Customer Incentives, customer retention, customer loyalty, Customer Success, Customer Services

Written by: Gary Toyn

For 25+ years Gary Toyn has helped organizations large and small improve their constituent/member acquisition, retention and engagement. He's a multi-published author, writer, and researcher.

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