SPECIAL REPORT: Retail Smarts – Customer Service

January 17, 2017

The Power of Appreciation

January is National Thank You Month, which makes now the perfect time to give some appreciation to the customers who supported hardware retailers and home improvement centers through 2016 and a successful holiday season. For a few fun ideas to get you started, check out these customer appreciation tactics from industry experts and top retailers.

5 Ways to Thank Customers

Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout Inc. developed a list of 25 ways to build a loyal customer base. Many of the suggestions (if not all) focus on ways to continually show gratitude to customers, which, most experts agree, can be one of the best ways to gain customer loyalty. We’ve highlighted five of them below.

One Good Deed: It may be difficult or too costly to appreciate every customer you have, but you can gain goodwill through media and word-of-mouth by
treating one customer to some over-the-top customer service. Get creative and you’ll be the story of the day (or week) in your community.

Reward Loyalty: Loyalty programs have become very popular, especially with the success of memberships like Amazon Prime. If you don’t have a VIP program, consider starting one for 2017. You can keep it simple by offering members a discount on their sign-up anniversaries or their birthdays. If you already have a standard loyalty program, consider adding one for your social media-savvy customers. Offer exclusive discounts or special promotions to your followers, create a points program for customers who share ideas or images of finished projects, and encourage customers to “check in” at your store to earn a discount or prize.

Shine a Light: You can show your gratitude for loyal customers by highlighting them in Facebook, in blog posts or on posters in the store. Profile a customer of the week or month with a photo and a brief write-up to show shoppers how much you appreciate your customers. For professional customers, you can include information about their businesses with a referral from your store.

Dish Up Treats: Many hardware retailers already offer free coffee or popcorn daily, but you may want to designate one day a month or a day in January as customer appreciation day. Play it up by offering donuts or other treats, decorate with balloons, host a special event, provide giveaways and as always offer discounts and coupons.

“Just Because” Discounts: Small businesses are famous for their personal touch. Use your closeness with repeat customers and pro clients to unexpectedly offer them a discount at the register as a special thank you for their business. Also, consider gaining new loyal customers by giving a discount to a new pro client or a customer who is new to the community. It will make them feel special and give you a warm feeling too.

Check out Help Scout’s complete list here.

Don’t Forget the Pros

For some retailers, professional clients are the heart of the business. Pros can benefit from the same acts of gratitude listed above, but as several articles from 
Hardware Retailing
magazine point out, they also appreciate events geared toward them and their needs, like the following.

Vendor Nights: Brian Baker, the owner of Builders Lumber & Hardware in Shelbyville, Indiana, recently hosted an invitation-only contractor event. He invited a dozen of his store’s top vendors to set up booths or tables near product displays. His top builder clients and remodeler customers along with a few prospective customers were able to walk through the vendors, meet them, talk about products and watch demonstrations. The event cost the store nothing because the vendors paid $250 to take part. The money covered the door prizes, welcome bags and catering. Read more about the event here.

Free Lunch: Twice a year, Mayfield Plumbing & Electric in Mayfield, Kentucky, hosts a customer appreciation day for its pro customers. The store provides
barbecue and burgers and invites a guest speaker to share information about the latest product innovations or changes in legislation and regulations that will affect their clients. Read more about the event here.

The Thank You Economy

Is all this appreciation really necessary? After all, customers freely exchange their money for quality products that they need or want. Isn’t advertising and marketing the best way to draw in customers? According to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, author of The Thank You Economy, appreciation, along with authenticity, creativity, honesty and good intent, are necessary now more than ever thanks to the internet, which has re-elevated the power of individual opinion and word-of-mouth. Retailers can no longer rely on large marketing campaigns to shut out the competition and garner attention. Based on data-driven research, Vaynerchuk claims companies that will see the biggest returns are the ones that prove they care about their customers. To listen to an interview with Vaynerchuk click here.

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