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Customer Appreciation: No ice cream for you!

I can’t help but chuckle every time I see this commercial.

Have you seen it? It’s by Ally Bank. A kid asks for ice cream from a (really well cast) guy in a suit that’s supposed to be a typical banker. He responds, “no, it’s just for new people”. Then, another kid runs up from off screen, and the man in the suit greets him with a warm welcome of “heeeeyyy, chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry?”. The first kid looks confused and somewhat despondent before proclaiming, “I’m new, too!” To which the suit responds, “He’s new — er.”

What gets me chuckling is the kids’ (authentic) expressions and how well the actor plays the jerky banker.

(Read about the story behind the ads)

Of course, there are some neat lessons in this video about what NOT to do to your customers. How many times has a great price been for “new clients only”? How many times have you been told that if you refer someone, they’ll get this wonderful price or bonus, but sorry, not available for you, Mr. or Ms. Existing Client? Hey, I understand the metrics behind it too, but as a current customer it sure makes you feel like crap, doesn’t it?

This point was hammered home to me recently when reviewing the results of focus group research I commissioned on behalf of a client. This particular client has a model with a lot of stickiness. Once customers sign on for a year of service, they typically stick around for a long time (think alarm companies, for example). But something was wrong — their attrition was higher than their industry’s norm.

Now if your business is in a position to afford focus group research, then do it. Done properly, you get a wealth of information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. In our case, we got our answers pretty clearly. The complaint raised by the focus group participants was that once they had signed on with the company, “the romancing halted abruptly”. They felt neglected and unappreciated once they were clients. And this negative feeling was predisposing them to taking their business elsewhere when the time came to renew.

No ice cream for you!

Naturally, my client was surprised and unhappy to hear this. But no one can argue with the facts. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. They simply need to start paying more attention to their existing clients and dedicate more time and effort to client satisfaction and retention- more to customer appreciation not just customer acquisition.

This is really hard if you are a small business, say, 1-5 people isn’t it? It’s busy as all hell and there’s not enough time in the day to get it all done. The focus is justifiably on making it rain, so naturally it’s all about getting new clients through those doors. Unfortunately, there is little time left in the day for appreciating the ones we already have.

I’m here to remind you that customer acquisition is great. But client retention is better.

I’m sure you’ve heard that piece of marketing wisdom that says “it’s cheaper to get an existing client to buy from you than it is to acquire a new client”.

It’s true. But ONLY if you give them that opportunity.

That means you’ve got to allocate some time to staying in touch with them. Whether high-touch (e.g. phone calls, handwritten notes) or semi-automated or automated (auto responder emails, direct mailings), you need to remind them how much they mean to you and to your business.

What you can do TODAY to show your Customer Appreciation

Here are some things you can do, *today*, to demonstrate how much you love your current clients:

1. Run over to a stationary store and grab some cards, envelopes and stamps. Write a handwritten note to your top ten clients saying “This is just a short note to say that I really appreciate your business!” Address, stamp and mail them this afternoon.

2. Grab the phone. You know, that lump of plastic on your desk that we eschew in favour of tweeting and emailing? Yeah, that one. Pick it up and call the five clients you haven’t spoken to the longest. Say to them, “I’m just calling to say thank you for being my customer,” and “is there anything we can do to make your experience with us even better?”

3. Send a really special offer in a one-page letter. Contrary to what your English teacher taught you in high school, direct marketing mailings do not need to look like a letter. Emblazon the top of your letter with a headline, just like you would an ad, but have it say “THANK YOU!” (48 pt font is not too big.) In this letter, explain how much you appreciate their ongoing patronage and because they are such great clients you have this really special offer for them, but to get it they need to act before X date sometime in the next two weeks. Don’t over-complicate this. Write it, proof it, run it off on your printer, stamp and mail. Once written, you can do about 10 per day on an ongoing basis (depending on how many clients you have).

Again, all of these can be done before this afternoon. So what’s stopping you from doing one?

Even kids know it’s wrong to treat new friends better than old friends.

Make sure you treat your old friends right and they’ll never leave you.

Do you have a particular pet peeve “no ice cream for you” story? Do you do it to your customers? Leave a comment and let us know…

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