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Crowd pleasers: Launch a VIP customer awards program

June 8, 2017

It’s never been easier to know which customers are your most valuable. Businesses of all sizes can access useful sales data through robust, yet easy-to-use analytics packages rolled into point-of-sale systems. But what do you do with the information you discover? Reward your biggest spenders and most loyal customers with special VIP perks.

A lot of businesses understand how to launch a loyalty program. But identifying and rewarding your most valuable customers has never been more important.

The Pareto principle has been, more or less, accurately describing customer value generation (80% of value being generated by 20% of customers) for the last century. In the age of social media and viral news stories, however, businesses have really doubled down on identifying and rewarding their best customers while delivering next-level customer service.

Businesses like Nordstrom and LL Bean have made excellent customer service, like liberal return policies, part of their business model, rolling the cost of treating the customer like a king or queen into regular business expenses over the decades. And they’ve been rewarded handsomely for it from a loyal customer base during that time.

But for small businesses, the cost of providing high-end perks for your top-shelf customers on a well-drink budget can be a considerable challenge.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to show your top customers you care about them and their business.

Here are some ways businesses might be able to show the top customers that their loyalty is appreciated.

  • Cafes can offer free refills to regulars. Keeping a customer’s cup of joe hot has long been a staple of great American customer service. Also, offering discounts during off hours or give-aways on fresh baked goods at the end of the day are great ways to get regular customers back in your store for a second time in a day.
  • Novelty and gift shops do some of their most brisk business during the holidays, with many offering free gift wrapping and bows to entice customers in the doors during this high-competition time of year. So why not offer this same service year round?
  • Restaurants have been known to comp diners when things go bad, but why should that be the only time you’re looking to send a customer away smiling? Sending a surprise free appetizer or dessert over to a table of neighborhood regulars lets them know you care, creating the basis for a relationship that could last years.
  • Spas are truly about the experience, so finding creative ways to level-up the service for VIPs without breaking the bank can be a challenge. For timed services, letting a regular know you’re going to throw in a free 15 minutes of massage can go a long way. Or find a way to improve the experience with manicures/pedicures by offering a free coat or passing along manufacturer samples.
  • Retail clothing and accessories shops have price points that make giving merchandise away to great customers difficult, which is why these outlets should be looking to experiences to reward great customers. Offer guest list to VIP-only fashion shows, personal shoppers/styling, or early/exclusive access to new merchandise.

Whether you’re able to give something away to say “thank you” to your best customers, or you choose to reward them by letting them into the exclusive club of your business, make sure that it’s meaningful.

Awarding your best customers with exclusive perks can help to establish a bond between customer and merchant, where over time they cease to be customers and become ‘friends of the business.’

The little give and take of the relationship between regular and customer creates a familiarity that will ensure that every birthday dinner, anniversary, graduation, and every promotion gets celebrated at your place of business. This is why it’s so important to make sure your best customers know how much you value them each and every time they walk through your door.

[image: Champagne Mumm by dpotera on flickr]