Last month, I uncovered what I think is a remarkable trend in Google Search activity. Business owners and managers appear to be far more focused on employee appreciation than customer appreciation. Google Search activity for a range of terms and phrases reveals far greater interest in finding ways to appreciate, honor, and deepen relationships with employees than with customers. To be clear, if the opposite were true, it would be equally alarming. In this article, I’ll substantiate my search volume research, define what I’m calling a Customer Appreciation Gap, and propose concrete actions to ensure your company (or clients) are investing equally in employee and customer appreciation.
First, let’s look at the Google Search activity. In July, after reading an article about the benefits of topic clusters, I carried out an in depth analysis of search activity for employee appreciation and customer appreciation respectively. My objective going into this research was to identify the terms and phrases that business owners and managers are using to surface tools & resources to facilitate their own appreciation efforts. I wasn’t intending to uncover a search pattern that dramatically skews toward employee appreciation. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what I found.
Overall, the term “employee appreciation” has a monthly search volume of 4,400 searches whereas “customer appreciation” has a monthly search volume of 2,400 searches. More dramatically, “employee appreciation gifts” has a search volume of 3,600 searches whereas “customer appreciation gifts” has a search volume of only 320 searches. And similarly, “employee appreciation words” has a monthly search volume of 1,600 searches whereas “customer appreciation words” has a monthly search volume of only 40 searches. These search volumes relate to English speakers using Google in the U.S. and Canada. There are more examples. These three, however, are indicative of my point. When it comes to business appreciation, a lot more people are spending a lot more time researching employee appreciation than customer appreciation.
There’s a risk in assigning too much significance to these search patterns. It could be that businesses have tried & true approaches to customer appreciation and therefore aren’t searching for new ones. Or it could be that business owners and managers view solid customer service and the inherent value of a product or service as a form of appreciation on their own, and therefore aren’t seeking out supplementary customer appreciation strategies.
On the other hand, the search patterns I uncovered could be a sign of an actual Customer Appreciation Gap on the part of many businesses. By gap, I mean a blindspot or intentional lack of investment due to a misunderstanding of the importance of customer appreciation in creating business value. Customers are humans just like employees. And customers hold relationships with businesses just like employees have a relationship with their employers. In both cases, thoughtful & personalized appreciation can play a key role in forging an emotional connection and lasting memories that drive loyalty.
I am by no means the first person to draw attention to the importance of moving beyond transactional relationships with customers. But I may be the first to argue for companies to invest as much in customer appreciation as they do in employee appreciation. Below are some concrete steps I would propose to overcome the Customer Appreciation Gap if it’s affecting your company or clients.
1. Prepare yourself for making the case for an increased investment and focus on customer appreciation. Conduct your own research on the topic. As a primer, I would recommend listening to the Intuitive Customer Podcast to gain a greater understanding of the role that emotions and memory play in creating positive customer experiences. (Note: I do not have any affiliation with the podcast or the company behind it other than being an avid listener.)
2. Document and evaluate the company’s current customer appreciation approaches, if any. As mentioned above, customer appreciation can take many forms and is not always linked to an intentional customer appreciation strategy. As part of this work, situate the company’s appreciation efforts onto a broader customer journey map.
3. Brainstorm and experiment with additional ways your company or clients can be inserting customer appreciation into the customer experience. Here it can be very helpful to review what practices and approaches are working in the area of employee appreciation. In many cases, employee appreciation approaches can be copied over to customer appreciation with minor tweaks to account for the differences in an employee vs customer relationship.
4. And finally, be prepared to evaluate and measure how overcoming the Customer Appreciation Gap creates a positive ROI for your business. Until the company’s senior management views customer appreciation as an investment that makes business sense on par with employee appreciation, it will be difficult to gain access to additional budget & resources to expand the strategy further.