It’s one thing to say you care about your customers and value your employees, and another to actually show it.
"Oh sure," you’re probably thinking. "That’s easy for them, with their unlimited marketing budgets." Um, no. Not all of these ideas cost money. So whether you’re a large company or a bootstrapped startup, read on for inspiration:
Recently, the team at FreeEnterprise.com, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, interviewed Robert Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines and the man behind frequent flier programs, who said the best idea he ever had was to leave his number in the phone book. (Actually, it was his wife’s idea, and he credited her for it. Smart man.) "Make sure that everybody that works for the company knows that you care personally," Crandall said.
TD Bank offers longer hours for its customers, and provides treats for its customers’ children (lollipops) and pets (dog treats). Employees of West Coast-based Umpqua Bank took part in a "Random Act of Kindness" campaign earlier this year, purchasing coffee for people at a local coffee shop and distributing fortune cookies with kindness-themed messages.
At Anvil Media, Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based marketing agency, president Kent Lewis and his team recognize employee anniversaries in a unique way, challenging themselves to select gifts that reflect that individual employee’s interests (amounts are determined by length of employment). The company also prides itself in learning about its customers and celebrating milestones with them. For example, one vegetarian client tweeted about purchasing a grill for his new home, and the Anvil team sent him fresh vegetables.
Doug Wall, owner of a Valvoline Instant Oil Change in Clarksville, Tennessee, has been known to scan parking lots for cars bearing the company’s oil change reminder stickers. Recently, he found a couple with a young child in a restaurant parking lot, introduced himself, thanked them for their business, and offered to buy them dinner.
Procurify, a Canadian cloud-based purchasing management software company, sends handwritten thank-you notes and refunds to customers who aren’t using their software without being asked. "If our solution isn’t providing value, we don’t want you to pay for it," says Matt Lim, vice president of marketing for Procurify. "While we don’t expect anything in return, this has resulted in re-engagement and referrals," he notes.
Danielle Tate, CEO of MissNowMrs.com, a name-changing service for newlyweds, sends handwritten notes for all gift card orders to bring a "personal" touch to her online business.
Pranav Vora and Philip Soriano, cofounders of Washington, D.C.-based men’s retailer Hugh & Crye, hold meetups with customers in various locations around the country when they travel, to stay in touch and make sure they’re meeting their customers’ needs, no matter where they live.
[Image: Flickr user Seth Anderson]