Many companies offer customers and employees incentives and rewards, and that’s great. But these are typically expected and attached to an “If___ then___”

  • Sign up now and get 1 month for free!
  • Renew your plan and receive a free iPad!”
  • Meet your sales quota and receive a bonus!

Even retailers like 7/Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts launch high profile giveaways like free Slurpees or coffee “to show their appreciation” but we all know it’s really just to get new customers in the door. I’m not knocking it. It works!

But while these types of incentives can go a long way, they’re not instruments of loyalty and trust. If you boil it down, they’re little more than bribes. There’s nothing wrong with letting them know they’ll get a little something extra for choosing you over a competitor. But what happens after you deliver as promised?

Loyalty is made from- dare I utter these buzz words again?- surprise and delight. So if you want to create loyalty, you need to move past the “if-thens” and find ways of thanking customers which actually show some real gratitude.

Here are some great examples:

1. Best Buy sends surprise gift cards to online shoppers.

Thanking Customers
Online purchases are often followed by a reward.

2. Overseas eBay-er sends this adorable Thank You note with discount code.

Thanking Customers
Their website is currently down but they’re rockin’ on eBay.

(Actual card is too big to show here.)

3. Grub Hub thanks employees with a fancy lunch and sends them on a picnic.

Thanking Customers
How you treat employees says a lot about your attitude towards customers.

4. Our community manager sent our Chief CX Investigator this personalized mug.

Thanking Customers
Personalization gets extra points!

5. Potbelly manager sends a handwritten Thank You card to a return customer.

Thanking Customers

6. World of Beer staff writes a personal Thank You on the back of a receipt.

Thanking Customers

7. ZaZa hotel in Dallas leaves this flattering pillow in a guest room.

Thanking Customers

8. Sharpie showcases how customers use their product and gives them social love.

Thanking Customers

Most of these are pretty simple, and some cost little or nothing. But they all succeed in surprising and delighting the recipients.

Here are some other great ways to express gratitude:

9. People want to know the boss.

A special note, email, or face-to-face Thank You from someone in charge- someone who isn’t “required” to do so- means a lot.

10. Check up on them.

Send a “how are things” email or card, or approach them directly to express gratitude, offer assistance, and ask for feedback- without trying to upsell the customer.

11. Think of customers as individuals.

Go beyond the name! Take the extra time to send a personalized Thank You along with something you know they can use or enjoy personally. Think of where they live or their industry. (see #4)

12. Don’t overdo the branded swag.

Branded pens, tote bags, flash drives, etc. are great giveaways, but too much of this will make customers feel more like advertising tools. If it has your logo on it, make it unique and useful, not just a fancy alternative to a business card.

13. Thank them when they “diss” you.

Don’t just tell them you’re sorry to see them go. Be sure they know you appreciate their past business. It’s sad to lose customers, but the ones who tell you why they are leaving are giving you a great gift. Providing negative feedback can be uncomfortable for a parting customer. The ones who take the time deserve your sincerest gratitude.

Rewards are great, but pleasant surprises and personalized gratitude are the stuff that loyalty and advocacy are made of.

How does your company move past the if-thens to express real gratitude? We’d love to hear some more great examples.