I have some exciting personal news: I recently earned my communication degree from Portland State University!
But this blog post isn’t really about that. It’s about what happened a few days later, when I woke up, looked out the window, and saw a dozen flamingos standing in my front yard.
I’d been flocked.
If you’re unfamiliar with flocking—like I was until a few weeks ago—you might think I’m talking about real live, walking, squawking flamingos. I’m not. That would be terrible for all parties involved (although the birds could probably handle it—I mean, they can drink boiling water).
Flocking is the much more feasible—but no less ridiculous—practice of scattering plastic flamingo lawn ornaments all over someone’s property.
It’s a big, pink, fun expression of love…and it made my week.
It also made me understand something I’d always known on an intellectual level but never fully appreciated.
Love comes in many forms.
The sense of joy I experienced looking out upon a bunch of lawn ornaments felt almost as real as the comfort of a real-life hug (remember those?!). Because, well, it was as real. It was an equally tender act, with the same thought, care, and emotion behind it.
Successful business leaders understand this. Rather than let physical distance get in the way of their customer and client relationships,
they find creative ways to show their appreciation and build loyalty. They know there are plenty of opportunities (and reasons!) to show love to their customers and clients, even when they can’t see, smile at, or shake hands with anyone in-person.
Cue the Bette Midler—here are a few ways you can show love… from a distance.
1. Surprise deliveries.
Just closed a major deal with a customer and want to show your appreciation? Want to thank a client for years of business? Send ‘em something!
It doesn’t have to be a flock of flamingos (by the way, the correct collective term is a “flamboyance” of flamingos). You could send that customer or client…
- a gift basket
- a bottle of wine or champagne
- branded company merch—such as a hat, t-shirt, or mug
The list goes on. Whatever you send, be sure to keep it tasteful, and try not to overthink it or overspend. The goal is to delight your customer or client with something small they’ll actually use or consume.
2. Rewards, discounts, and freebies.
Small gestures to thank customers are nothing new. Businesses have thrown in freebies for centuries, long before the era of social distancing and quarantines. Consider the 13th pastry in a baker’s dozen, for instance. These little gifts are sometimes called lagniappes.
A lagniappe can be an extra physical item, such as a branded pen or sticker pack, that you throw in with each customer order. But it can also be digital in nature. You could email your customers discount codes, send them URLs to a “secret” page on your website, or donate a portion of every sale to a charitable cause in their name.
3. Personalized thank-yous.
Sometimes the simplest forms of gratitude are the most powerful. In lieu of freebies—or better yet, in addition to them—send your customers or clients thoughtful, personalized, handwritten thank-you notes.
These messages don’t have to be very long—just a few sentences at most. For the best results, tailor each message to the customer or client. Incorporate specific details where you can. For example:
I wanted to thank you for supporting our business. I know it’s pretty hot right now down there in Austin, so I thought I’d send you this Ben & Jerry’s gift card.
Treat yourself—it’s on us!”
It was great catching up with you on the phone the other day. I know you’ve been with us since 2010, and I wanted to thank you again for all your business over the years.
I’ve included a discount code for 50% off your next order—enjoy!”
You can send these as physical notes, through email, or even via personalized videos. Just make sure to keep the message short, sweet, and genuine.
4. Free digital content and downloads.
You don’t have to wait until someone places an order, pays an invoice, or signs up for a list to show them some love.
You don’t even have to wait for them to become a customer or client. One easy and valuable way to inform, appreciate, and delight people is through the content on your website and social media profiles.
Write some articles. Create a free guide or ebook. Share a favorite recipe, activity, or playlist. Post a link to donate to a local nonprofit organization. Your online presence provides your business with countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of your customers or clients.
Plus, it’s good for your business. Content is one of the most effective forms of marketing out there. Trust me—I have a degree in this stuff.
5. Virtual experiences.
Okay, this one’s a little more involved than the other ideas here, but it’s too cool not to include.
Vacation rental company Airbnb has started offering online experiences for people who are unable or unwilling to travel. Customers can cook alongside master chefs, play Ancient Greek trivia games, learn how to make sangria with drag queens, meditate with Buddhist monks, and much more.
It’s the perfect kind of pivot for a service like Airbnb. As always, the company is connecting people in search of fun and adventure—but doing it in a virtual format.
I’m guessing your company probably can’t offer virtual card magic classes or motivational seminars led by Olympic athletes. But take some time to think about whether there are unique experiences and elements of your business you can bring online.
Maybe you could host a customer book exchange.
Or put together a virtual fundraiser. Or share a song of the day on your Twitter profile. Or launch a pay it forward campaign, where customers can throw in a little extra to cover a portion of the next customer’s order.
The possibilities are endless, and you can go as big or keep it as small as you want.
What everyone really wants: extraordinary customer service.
The most direct and meaningful way to show your customers you love them is through customer service. The moment when someone calls or starts an online chat with your business is an opportunity to bring them joy, win their business, and earn their loyalty.
Looking for more customer experience tips? We’ve created a pretty cool, fun-to-look-at, comprehensive checklist to help you jumpstart your service.