Why do your customers choose to shop with you or use your services? Maybe your business offers stellar products or services, or you provide great customer service, or your location is the most convenient option for them. Maybe you’ve used marketing or other acquisition tactics to build your customer base.

Whatever the reason for their initial interest in your business, acquiring a customer is only the first step. Many businesses experience customer churn, or the event where customers stop buying or using your products or services. Research suggests that feeling unappreciated or unvalued by a business can lead to customer churn.

Showing your customers appreciate can be as simple as giving them a freebie

Losing customers can be hard on businesses, especially since the cost of acquiring a new customer can be high. So, what’s a small business owner to do? Start by showing your appreciation to retain your customers.

Showing appreciation can increase the lifetime value of your customers and build advocates.  Customer appreciation can be as simple as sending a thank you, creating unique experiences, or even remembering their birthday. To get started, consider these 6 customer appreciation ideas for small businesses.

1.  Write a thank you note

The value of a personalized thank you note cannot be understated. It’s not only an inexpensive way to demonstrate your gratitude, but it’s also an opportunity to personalize a message for your customer. You may want to start by including handwritten notes in customer packages after purchases. However, thank you notes can be effective throughout the year. Don’t limit yourself to thanking customers on Thanksgiving or Customer Appreciation Day — surprise them with an unexpected and genuine thank you out of the blue.

A personalized thank you note is a great way to show your customers how much you appreciate their business

2.  Surprise and delight

Surprises are fun — and they have a demonstrated impact in driving positive interactions and soliciting attention for brands. Dazzling your customers can be as simple as including a small gift with a purchase, offering an unexpected discount or upgrade, or including a free sticker or t-shirt along with a thank you note. You could reward your regular customers with a free beverage. You could also show your customers some love by using user-generated content on your social media to give them the spotlight. Whatever you choose, a surprise is a great way to stay top of mind and to generate buzz about your business by creating experiences that are worth sharing.

3.  Celebrate milestones

Show your customers how well you know them and how much you care by marking important milestones. Many businesses celebrate their customers by sending birthday emails, which happens seamlessly using information from your customer database and email automation. This is a great opportunity to thank your customers, whether it’s a discount, free birthday gift, or gift card.

Birthdays aren’t the only milestone you can recognize. Celebrate the one-year anniversary of when they became a customer to let them know how much you appreciate them. Or give back to your customers on your 5th, 10th, or 25th year of business — they are, after all, the ones who helped make your success possible!

4.  Get their feedback

Customers want to know they’ve been heard and that you’re truly engaged, whether they’re gushing about the fabulous food or service or logging a complaint. Getting feedback from your customers can be valuable. Not only will you learn how your business, products, or services are impacting people, but it will also give your customers the opportunity to sound off.

To get their feedback, you can send customers a survey or reach out via phone call to learn more. It’s equally important to respond to comments people leave about your business on social media, Google reviews, or other feedback forums. You can take this a step farther by asking longtime or regular customers to participate in user groups or to demo new products or services first. Getting feedback is also an opportunity to gather testimonials from your biggest fans.

5.  Reward their loyalty

A customer loyalty program is designed to make one-time or occasional customers into repeat purchasers by offering rewards after a certain number of purchases. The most familiar type is the punch card program used by coffee shops and pizza places alike. But many other businesses can set up a similar program designed to drive customer loyalty. Thanks to computerized point of sale systems or online tools, much of the program can be handled automatically.

Loyalty perks could include discounts or free items at your business, complimentary upgrades, free shipping, or access to exclusive sales. You can also reward members after they’ve spent a certain amount of money with your business, offering rewards at $50, $100, or $500 of total purchases.

One way to show customer appreciation is including a free gift in their next purchase

6.  Make VIPs feel special

Your longtime customers are often your most valuable, so give them the VIP treatment. As an example, offer special return policies to your regular customers or members of your loyalty program. For example, if your standard return policy is 30 days and the receipt is required, offer 60 days with or without a receipt to VIPs.

You could also create a VIP Facebook group, Slack channel, or Discord community. Give them special access to a dedicated customer service team or an exclusive sale. Another tactic is to use user-generated content on social media and share the posts that your customers make about your business, products, or services.

Showing customer appreciation can go a long way in boosting customer retention, creating both brand affinity and brand loyalty. And it doesn’t have to be expensive — even a simple thank you note or remembering their birthday can go a long way. When you go to express your gratitude, be sure to convey that you and your employees truly appreciate your customers’ business. Your company grew and thrived because of their patronage, so let them know how important they’ve been to your success.

Want to learn more about small business? Visit the CenturyLink Discover blog today for more articles on small business and the technology that helps them run.

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