The following is a Best of 360Connext post.
Do we live in a throwaway culture?
Probably. It feels that way to loyal customers sometimes, thanks to customer rewards reserved for those walking in the door. When customers feel neglected, they take to the Internet, and on these companies’ very sites I found dozens upon dozens of customers voicing how frustrated they felt. The advertisements for customer rewards only apply to those shiny, new customers, not the old dusty ones paying their bills on time each month and providing most of the company revenue. “Now, they’re offering rebates to new customers, while my bill has practically DOUBLED after more than 5 years with them. This is truly outrageous!” “The bottom line is I saved $120, but very unhappy I could not get the new customer deal.” “Yet again, I tried to get the deal. Yet again, I was asked if I’d like to cancel. So much for caring about customers.” Don’t Throw Your Customers Away Honestly, I can’t believe this still happens. Companies are driven by the NEW to the point of ignoring what is happening with the leak in the bucket. What is the point of forcing customers to drop your service and resign a year later? There are entire web sites and online communities dedicated to these practices. Each time a customer leaves and returns, it costs the company money. And not to mention the word-of-mouth fallout from poor customer service. There are the famous examples now of fed-up customers doing everything from posting flaming sites to picketing outside the corporate office. As frustration builds from poor service or unmet expectations, those ads luring new customers become salt in the wounds. Show Loyal Customers They Matter Random acts of kindness go a long, long way. Loyal customers want to be recognized, appreciated and respected. A few recent examples I’ve experienced:
- My alumni association from the University of Missouri sent me one of those little screen wipey things around the holidays. The note said simply “Random Acts of Membership.” It was a surprise and even though it’s a simple promotional item, it stood out as an act of appreciation.
- My accountant, a small business owner herself, sends random cards throughout the year. Some have small perks in them, like a $10 coffee gift card or a donation in my name. It’s thoughtful and unexpected.
- Our satellite provider sent us a letter informing us we’d receive extra channels for a year, just for being loyal customers. There was no funny business. No form to complete. No bill to rebate. They just appeared and we weren’t charged.
While those are examples of things that worked, here are some that didn’t.
- After finishing a frustrating contract with a mobile provider, I received a “No Strings Attached” gift for my loyalty, which was a mobile hotspot. The only problem was the fine print actually had plenty of strings attached, including an automatic two-year contract. I didn’t feel appreciated. I felt taken.
- An artist I bought from once at an art show barrages me with “rewards.” They are cheap postcards and such with the artist branding all over them. I toss them in the recycle bin, and resent my purchase a bit more each time.
It’s great to welcome new customers with something special. Onboarding is a critical stage in the relationship. But don’t make that the only time you’re thoughtful. Get excited when you see those regular invoices being paid. Say thank you to those customers who AREN’T the squeaky wheels. A little can go a long way.