Thursday, June 4, 2009

topic du jour: customer appreciation

Good afternoon! Today we had a screw up with one of our retailers, someone who had not ordered from us before. As I was reflecting about how we handled the situation, I was reminded about how important it is to show appreciation to customers, both when you're fixing a mistake and in the course of everyday dealings.

Since we are all in an industry that is driven by sales, it is easy to get caught up in who your largest customers are, and limit specials, incentives and perks to them. But, especially this year, when everyone's sales have been hit hard by this economy, sales may not be the best measure of to whom you should extend whatever customer appreciation programs your company might have. One store's (or customer's) $200 might be another store's (or customer's) $2,000. A store who writes a $2,000 is not, therefore, necessarily a more important or "better" customer than the one who writes $200. How many times have you had a store that orders a lot but is difficult to deal with, meaning that your profit margin dwindles by virtue of the amount of time and attention they require? Which is not to say that a big customer isn't important, because of course they are, but I wonder if dollars spent should be the primary factor in formulating customer appreciation programs and incentives.

All of which is a long way of getting to today's topic du jour: How do you handle customer appreciation? Do you have a program within your company for doing so? Retailers, what are your favorite types of customer appreciation incentives?

At hen and barley press, we send updates to our Completely Custom program at no charge to a large portion of our retailers. Sales aside, we can generally glean where the potential is, and let's face it, an album is essentially a catalog of our products, so why wouldn't why want to give as many retailers as possible the tools to sell our products? We send hand addressed, hand signed holiday photo cards to most of our retailers, whether they've ordered from us recently or not.

Recently, hen and barley press donated a bunch of our invitation and note card overstocks to the Chicago branch of a national not-for-profit called AmericaSCORES. It was not a huge donation by any stretch of the imagination. Today, we received a packet with a copy of their most recent publication, as well as a handwritten note from the executive director, thanking us for our donation. Let me tell you, we were impressed! It made us think we should really do the same thing for our customers all the time, not just at the holidays, or after the National Stationery Show. Food for thought!

We'd love to hear from you all on this topic!

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