5 Effective Ways to Thank Your Customers

To boost loyalty and leave a lasting impression, get creative when showing your appreciation.
Build a loyal customer base with a heartfelt thank you. (Photo: michaeljung/Shutterstock)

Repeat, loyal customers spend more, on average, than new ones. In retail apparel, research by Bain and Company found that they spend 67 percent more over the course of their time with a company, and they refer your business to their friends more often.


“I love Sam Walton’s line that says the customer can fire every single person in your organization just by spending their money somewhere else.” -Chip Bell (Photo: Chip Bell)

Customers become loyal and spend more if they’re thanked often and sincerely.

“I love Sam Walton’s line that says the customer can fire every single person in your organization just by spending their money somewhere else,” said Chip Bell, a customer service expert, speaker and author, most recently of “Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service.”

“Thanking them acknowledges that they are the source of your survival. But unfortunately, it’s something that’s too rare.”

If you haven’t thanked your customers enough, try one of these five ideas.

Make sure all sales staff offer a sincere “thank you”

Too often, when you get a verbal “thank you” in a store, the employee says it on autopilot, which makes it feel less genuine. Or sometimes, employees don’t say it at all.

Bell said he was in one store years ago and saw that managers had added stickers with an acronym for how employees should thank customers at all the registers. His cashier, without thinking, said the acronym instead of the full phrase, a gesture that stuck with Bell ever since.

“When it’s in that mechanical, perfunctory way, it doesn’t register positively,” he said.

“A sincere, authentic and real, ‘We really really do value you and are grateful for your business’ makes a difference.”

Improving your in-store customer service comes down to hiring the right people, training them and making it a priority every day.

Send a card

The holidays are the perfect excuse to send a card to to acknowledge your frequent shoppers and clients. Send a Thanksgiving card in November or a holiday card in December. Bell sends out Valentine’s Day cards to his clients.

If you can handwrite and personalize the cards, that’s even better. Either way, you are sending a message to your customer that they’re important and valued.

Kristina Maccaro, owner and creative director at Love Lane Salon in New Jersey, said mailing cards year round helped her grow her new business. She continues the practice to this day.

“I live and die by the happiness of my clients,” she said. “Early on I started mailing handwritten thank you notes to my clients after their appointments. I’ve found it to be a particularly impactful way of making a continuing great first impression with a new client even after they are out of my chair.”

Send a hand-picked gift

Another common way businesses thank their clients and big spenders is with gifts. But Bell warned that gifts can move into insincere territory (another fruit basket?) when they’re not personalized.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a marketing firm in Massachusetts, said she began to customize gifts for her biggest clients a few years ago and found it made a huge impact.

For the client who attended the same college as her, she gave gear and swag related to their alma mater’s bowl games. Her clients in the food industry get restaurant gift certificates. One client who loves movies got gift certificates for tickets and snacks at a local theater.

“I actually spent less money on the customized gifts but found they made a much bigger impact and left a stronger impression,” she said. “People genuinely appreciated the thought that went into the gifts that were tailored to their personal interests.”

Kornel Kurtz, CEO of WebTek Computer Company, a web design and internet marketing company in Pennsylvania, said since his clients are local, he personalizes gifts based on where everyone lives.

“We thank our customers by mailing them redeemable vouchers for other local businesses like our small town ice cream parlor or gourmet popcorn store,” he said. “Not only do our customers feel appreciated, but these small vouchers encourage the recipient to interact in the community.”

Also consider sending a gift with your company logo on it or one that otherwise aligns with your brand so your company stands out in their minds.

Another idea from Bell: Send magazine subscriptions you know they’ll like.

Bell said to be sure to send gifts only to clients and customers who go above and beyond with their loyalty and spending, “or you’ll spend yourself out of business.”

Make a donation

During the holidays, some businesses use their charitable giving as an opportunity to thank their customers through donations in clients’ names.

Liz Crystal, owner of the LC Group, a bookkeeping company in New Jersey, said she makes donations to a local food bank in honor of her clients. “After I send the donation, I send each client a personalized card thanking them and letting them know I made the donation,” she said. “All my clients have been thrilled.”

Give a discount

To thank your customers near the holidays or any other time during the year, Bell also recommended giving a one-time discount or freebie, which is a win-win for you and the customer. They’ll come in to shop (and spend money), and they’ll feel special knowing you are treating them to a discount.

But Bell said personalization also comes into play here.

“My liquor store sends me a birthday gift with a card and a discount for my favorite bottle,” Bell said. “What that signals to me is my business matters. Discounts can be effective if we make a big deal out of them and they feel unique.”

Whatever gesture you use to recognize your customers and clients, Bell said, make sure it complements your excellent customer service year round.

“It should be a hard-wired courtesy for how we host customers,” he said. “Don’t waste your time with perfunctory thank yous.”

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