I was heating up a sweet Krispy Kreme Original Glazed for dinner tonight (I know, bad idea, I usually each much better) and the phrase “dollars to donuts” popped to mind. It’s an interesting phrase, generally meaning a safe bet, and loyalty never is.
Ironically, people have used sweets and other incentives for eons to inspire warmth, affection, and yes, loyalty. In fact, if you work in an office I’ll bet (dollars to donuts) that you know someone with a candy jar on their desk.
They don’t buy goodies every week, often at considerable expense, just to be nice. The candy kings and queens have different motives, like getting to know their coworkers, staying on top of office gossip or just keeping the boss happy.
My local bank has a candy dish in the lobby, and often a plate of cookies by the deposit slips. Even though fewer people are banking face-to-face these days, those who do probably enjoy snagging a treat as they wait.
Would you choose your bank by the candy it keeps? Probably not.
Do you eagerly anticipate free food, like Saturday samples as Costco? Maybe.
The thing is, the occasional sweet or even savory tidbit is nice, but it won’t create enduring customer loyalty. You have to work a lot harder for that.
Loyalty is more like the workouts you need to keep sweets from spending a lifetime on your hips. Thirty minutes of cardio won’t prevent a heart attack, but thirty minutes three times a week, year after year, might do the trick.
Customers expect the same level of commitment. Treat them well, time after time, and they’ll honor you with repeat business. Screw up royally and try to make it right with a proverbial box of chocolates…well, you can guess how that turns out.
Monthly coupons, annual birthday notes, holiday fruit baskets, whatever you choose to “reward” your customers is merely icing on the cake. Without a foundation of integrity, respect and accountability, the sugar high quickly turns into a wicked fall.
I’m not saying there’s no place for little acts of appreciation, just that you have to back them up with real goodwill. What does that look like in practice?
Customer loyalty happens when…
- Customers are greeted warmly and treated professionally.
- Prices and policies are fair, logical and consistent.
- Needs are anticipated, with swift and pragmatic actions.
- Problems are resolved quickly, without placing blame.
- Appreciation is freely and sincerely expressed.
When companies do all these things well, the sweet little touches take on more meaning. They align with a customer-focused culture, reinforcing the message that, “We like having you around.”
That’s the sweetest thank you of all.