Enterprise behavior: What VIP customer feedback can tell you

August 7, 2018

The best customers are economic engines. They’re reliable, loyal, and help small businesses clear a profit each month.

But what many people don’t realize are that these customers aren’t always the splashy spenders. They’re often the ones who come back consistently, even if their purchases are small.

Consider the case of the “$5.35 guy,” a Portland native whose daily brew and bagel contribute as much to a coffee shop’s bottom line as 10 occasional customers. These are the people every business owner should recognize, reward, and reach out to for their insights.

Learn about a few easy ways to both keep VIP customers coming back and tapping their experiences for fresh ideas.

Use a personal touch.

Everyone likes being recognized and known. In the old days, sole proprietors might personally greet the locals who passed through their doors. They would know names, buying histories, and what the person might be interested in considering.

But competitive operations today are often more complex operations. They require more staff, more distribution channels, and more time spent on tasks such as marketing, building an online presence, and cultivating loyalty among customers who have a sea of options.

Reward programs help forge a vital personal relationship between the business and its VIP customers. While punch cards were a small-business standby, new POS systems make it easy to set up digital rewards programs that actually gather customer and purchase data.

Clover Rewards, for example, lets staff identify customers and greet them by name. If the customer places a regular order, employees will see that too and be able to act quickly. Apps can be used to tailor offers that appeal to customers’ habits, including discounted versions of their favorite items—all time-tested tactics that customers still deeply appreciate.

Solicit their feedback.

While greetings and rewards help customers feel seen and valued, these VIPs are more than just cash cows. They can actually tell you a lot about the business and offer ideas to expand and boost sales. All it takes is asking questions.

For starters, always ask if customers found what they needed and if there’s anything more you can help them with. If a customer is receptive, go further with your questions and try to discover unspoken needs.

For example, VIPs might love your offerings—otherwise they wouldn’t be so loyal. But they might also enjoy more variety. Ask if there are new items they’d like to see on the menu, or regular specials or regional cuisines they’d like to try. What about different styles in a clothing shop or brands in a pet store?

Start a conversation about the establishment’s hours. Would customers like special access that’s earlier or later than normal hours? Would extended weekend hours work better with their schedules? If there’s a real chance of capturing more business, adding hours for VIPs might be a good option.

Or, what about bringing your VIPs into the establishment—literally. Would they enjoy using the space for an office party or a private event? Or, maybe you can switch the scenario and bring services to the customers. A spa might offer modified services at a customer’s workplace, or a restaurant could offer to cater a customer’s party.

Help them connect with you.

Just as merchants should regularly contact their best customers with rewards and notifications, customers should be able to contact the business as well.

Whether they have a complaint, a suggestion, or want to pass along a compliment, give them a way to privately reach you. Consider setting up a dedicated email expressly for VIP customers. That way their messages won’t get lost in the avalanche of business communications, and merchants can be sure to reply personally.

Another option is Clover’s Feedback app, which lets you invite customers to connect with you via your POS system. It’s not only a great way to stay in touch, but also to contain criticism. Letting people vent directly to the business can prevent angry reviews from reaching the public eye.

Repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers, and second-time customers refer an average of three people to the business. These VIP customers are truly the lifeblood of the business, driving sales and sparking ideas.

With a few simple strategies, small business owners can recognize them, reward them, and gather their input to steadily grow and improve.

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