Customer Experience News & Trends

15 great ways to reward customers for their loyalty this year

Most customers come and go. Then there are those who are loyal to the end. They deserve to be rewarded, and we have a boatload of proven ideas on how to do that.

Even better, many are ideas that fit any budget for rewarding or enticing customer loyalty. Most come from smaller and mid-size organizations that have limited resources, but plenty of enthusiasm, for keeping their customers loyal into the new year. Some ideas come from companies with deep pockets — but their customers spend well, too, so larger rewards are in order.

Whether you want to reward customers for their patronage in 2013, or encourage them to stick around in 2014, these ideas will work:

1. Create a community

136257492Harley-Davidson customers could be considered the most loyal in all the world, so it’s only fitting we start with them. Why would we give them such a distinction? Because some of them go so far as to have the company’s logo tattooed to their bodies — that shows permanent devotion to the motorcycle maker.

For that kind of loyalty, Harley-Davidson creates a community for its loyal customers, organizing social and educational events where customers with a common interest can come together, talk and learn about the product and share stories.

2. Give them a badge of honor

You can’t deny the growing number of people wearing garb to prove they were part of a challenging sporting event. They crawled under electrical wires and jumped from 30-foot high walls to “earn” those t-shirts. In fact, Tough Mudder asks its customers to sign a death waiver before taking part in its 12-mile obstacle course, and customers are lining up to do it week after week. Why? They want in on the privilege of taking on the Tough Mudder challenge.

You don’t want to make customers do anything dangerous to gain their loyalty, but give them the opportunity to be part of a special group. Perhaps you can invite them to become members of your highest level club once they’ve been with you for a certain time or have made a set number of purchases.

3. Give the gift of laughter

175844725One of the reasons Southwest Airlines has so many raving fans is because leaders and front-line employees infuse some humor and fun into the customer experience. While they’re serious about business, Southwest is not as serious about how it gets done: Employees have the authority to make sure customers are happy — especially when circumstances aren’t so fun.

So loyal customers are rewarded with off-the-wall things such as gate attendants announcing silly games for passengers stuck waiting through delays. Southwest has also handed out gift cards to the customers with the oldest penny, biggest hole in their socks or stockings, or worst looking briefcase.

4. Clean it up

Who wouldn’t mind getting something back cleaner than when they handed it over to a company for maintenance?

One GM dealer regularly washes customers’ cars that are in for maintenance work and returns them repaired, clean and dry.

5. Keep them guessing

167120918Customers will come back for the possibility of a discount. To that point, Happy Cakes Bakeshop gives unadvertised discounts during its weekday Cupcake Happy Hours. Customers don’t know exactly what will be on sale or when, but they know they love the product and will come in to see what’s on special.

6. Make it memorable

At a New York City Marriott, front desk employees send guests “Connection Cards” — a note to welcome them, thank them for the stay and also mention something that was shared during the check-in such as the show they’re going to see or business meeting they’re going to attend. It’s the last part that really wows customers, as it shows staffers really were listening to them.

In the cards, employees also include their names, contact numbers and an offer to help throughout the customers’ visit.

7. Plan surprises

The manager at an office supply company gives her reps a small stipend to reward a few customers every month in a way the rep sees fit. The key here: Front-line reps, who’ve built or are building relationships with customers, have the authority to do something special.

For instance, one rep sent a long-time customer who was retiring a book on gardening — something he said he planned to do more of in his retirement.

8. Follow up

139941785When the transaction is over, some organizations go silent. But most real estate professionals don’t — even though it isn’t likely their customer will have a need for them in the near future (after all, people don’t buy houses that often).

Many have large bouquets of flowers or fruit delivered for new home owners the day they move in. It usually pays off in a different kind of customer loyalty: referrals.

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