Business Etiquette 101: Should You Send a Gift to a Customer?


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When done correctly, giving a gift to a customer can strengthen relationships with business associates, customers, and employees.

Many cultures show their appreciation to customers by sending gifts following their business meetings, but when not done right, or not according to corporate or government guidelines, gift-giving is not always appropriate.

When it comes to gift giving, [improper gift giving] moments can be embarrassing. Knowledge is power. So before you start shopping, educate yourself.

-Susan Payton, President of Egg Marketing & Communications

When It’s Appropriate to Give Your Customer a Gift

Has a customer been instrumental in making a big change that affects you? If you’ve been working for months and months on a special merger and you meet to discuss the success of this new project, gift-giving is appropriate.

Public relations is often about others going out on a limb for you. Projects that may benefit others in the community or improve public works are examples of projects where you may want to send a symbolic gift to show your appreciation. If a new playground was erected, a church was built or another community based public space, you can get creative by sending a piece of the architecture or a commemorative token such as a bookend or paperweight with their name and the event engraved. Etsy has a variety of gift ideas in this category.

Has your customer devoted personal time to assist you? Has your customer met with you after normal business hours on several occasions? In this case, a gift to show your thanks is appropriate. Consider sending flowers or a plant to their office to demonstrate that you appreciate the prosperity the two of you were able to create together. FTD carries numerous arrangements that are appropriate for a business setting.

Are you on the same professional level as your customer? Gifts small and large can make a good impression, and if your customer is at the same professional level as you, sending a gift can be an appropriate gesture. customers offer share insider information that we could not gather anywhere else but from them as a primary source. When this is the case, send a rare gift that shows your unwavering appreciation, such as a special out-of-print book. Ebay is a great resource to find these rare items.

Should You Think Twice Before Giving a customer Gift?

Sometimes the type of company will determine if you should consider sending a gift following your meeting. For certain corporations and industries (journalism is one), sometimes gifts may not be accepted when they are over a certain valued amount.

Check with your recipient’s management team to avoid the risk of an expensive gift being returned. If you’re concerned this may be an issue, you can also perform your own research by checking out the IRS’ gift-giving statutes.

After an initial interview-style meeting with a new customer. A gift just following an interview meeting is generally not considered appropriate. In this case a simple, a handwritten thank you letter would be a better choice.

Be sure to avoid these 5 big business gift giving mistakes that are frequently made:

  • Mistake #1: Giving a “too expensive” gift.
  • Mistake #2: Not knowing the recipient’s preferences or habits.
  • Mistake #3: Assuming everyone celebrates Christmas.
  • Mistake #4: Re-gifting.
  • Mistake #5: Overlooking someone important.

My take? Giving gifts to customers really needs to provide a positive, relationship building purpose. If you’re doing it just to do it, pass. Don’t do it. Make it meaningful. I’ve previously sent holiday cards to customers and other thought leaders I’ve interacted with throughout the year. All of my gifts, cards, and notes HAVE to be hand written by me or someone on my team.

I find that focusing on doing enough to focus on those with whom I have a professional, yet personal connection, but never too many that I have to automate the process and lose the personal touch is the best way to make giving gifts to customers practical and effective.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Flavio Martins
Flavio Martins is the VP of Operations and Customer Support at DigiCert, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise authentication services and high-assurance SSL certificates trusted by thousands of government, education, and Fortune 500 organizations. Flavio is an award-winning customer service blogger, customer service fanatic, and on a mission to show that organizations can use customer experience as a competitive advantage win customer loyalty. Blog: Win the Customer!


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