Show, Don’t Tell

How to Demonstrate Gratitude to your Customers

One of my English professors used to say, “Don’t tell me, show me!”

Whether you are writing a novel or a persuasive essay or the closing arguments for a court case, it’s good advice. It is also excellent advice for running a business.

This is the time of year when minds turn to gratitude. Perhaps you have even put a message out via newspaper, radio, social media or email thanking your customers for their patronage.

Customers and clients are the most valuable asset to a business – without them, business would just not exist. It’s important to express our thanks (and not just in November!).

But as with most things, grateful actions speak louder than words, so we’ve compiled a list of ways to demonstrate gratitude to your clients year-round. We’d love to hear your additions!

1. Offer Authentic Service

People want to feel connected, like they belong. You can offer your customers a sense of belonging with genuine, authentic service.

Start with something simple like eye contact. It is easy to get glazed over when you are busy, and clients can start blurring into a monolithic march of sameness. But just by making eye contact and really seeing the people you are serving, you can start to make those connections. Remember, it feels good to be seen.

Similarly, practice active listening when interacting with customers. Respond with more than “mmhm,” and “well!” Pay attention to body language and tone, both theirs and your own. Ask questions (appropriate ones!) and make sure you understand what they are asking before you give a stock answer.

Finally, take genuine interest in the people who support your business. Each of them has a life, with love and loss and dreams and disappointments. Even if you never learn what those are, just keeping in mind that there is a person with a complex life behind each credit card will work wonders on your customer service.

2. Don’t Skimp on the Details

We know, there is a LOT that goes into keeping your business running. Sometimes things end up on autopilot, and sometimes you just need to take shortcuts. But one thing you should never shortchange is attention to detail, especially those details that make the difference between meh and wow for your clients.

Has this ever happened to you? You come up with a great idea for a promotion, put a lot of time and effort into marketing and publicizing it, and then get bogged down in the follow-through.


It is crucial, if you want your customers to feel appreciated and to keep coming back, that you meet the expectations you generate. If you promise a free gift with the purchase of xyz, then for the sake of all that is good please have the free gift on hand – and not something cheesy or chintzy, either.

Don’t waste your customers’ time on a wild goose chase for a 10% off coupon good only between midnight and 6 a.m. during the second new moon of months with 30 days, PARTICULARLY if you didn’t include all those details in your ads.

Other details that matter are those that make the customer experience pleasant and stress-free. Is your place of business well-lit? Is it easy to find items? Does traffic flow smoothly, or are there bottlenecks?

Which leads us right into our next point:

3. Make it Easy!

You want people to spend their money with you, so don’t put up a bunch of roadblocks or hoops they need to jump through on their way to the register!

Take payment options. Have as many as possible. Can people use their smartphone to pay? Do you offer online ordering with local pickup? Do you take credit cards in-store? Are your employees comfortable handling cash and making change?

What about loyalty programs? Make sure that they are worth any effort you ask customers to invest in them.


Are you still stamping paper cards that can get lost or misplaced? Consider switching to a database with phone numbers, or even an app, so that purchases are automatically tracked and tallied.

Your most popular items should be easy to find, as should any advertised sale items. Grocery stores are king at this game, so take notes.

When designing and creating walkways and displays, keep everyone in mind. Can someone in a wheelchair get around the corners? Are items on lower shelves safe for little hands? Do you have enough staff to offer assistance as needed?


4. Offer Deals to Loyal Customers

Special offers and deals are great ways to draw new clients in, but if you want to show gratitude to your existing customer base make sure you don’t neglect them in the process. Make it worth their while to continue patronizing you instead of switching to a competitor with a “new customer” special!

Which is worth more, a new customer or a loyal one? It’s not a trick question, just a math problem.

If you are a coffee shop and you decide to draw in new customers by offering “1 free drink when you join our club,” you’ll probably get some nibbles. Lots of new club members coming in for their free drink.

You’ve made $0 so far. Hopefully the coffee and service are enough to draw them back – but how many just came for the free coffee?

Now, how about that businessman who stops by every morning for a $2 coffee? He’s worth $10 a week gross. Even if you give him one free coffee a week, you are still way ahead of your new-customer promotion.

To paraphrase an old children’s rhyme, “Make new [customers] and keep the old; one is silver and the other, gold.”

5. Listen. Change. Rinse, Repeat

Now let’s talk about online reviews.

We know; the internet is full of haters. People don’t take the time to leave a review/rant when they are happy. Often the best thing to do with 1-star reviews is to ignore them; people know a grinch when they see one.

On the back end, though, you might want to read those reviews.


Your business is your baby, and it can be really hard to take criticism on the subject. But it is worthwhile to take a step back and listen to what your clients have to say – even if they are haters and grinches.

First, your customers know what they want. Maybe it isn’t what you set out to do. Maybe it doesn’t fit with your company mission. Maybe you just personally don’t like whatever it is they want. Maybe you have good reasons for not meeting their expectations, but maybe you don’t. 

It is good to have a clear vision of what your business is and does. It’s even better to be able to adjust as the world shifts and changes. And your customers, even the grinchy ones, offer a perspective you don’t have.

If you drop your ego and listen to what people are saying, you will have to sort through a lot of dross. We know. But you may find some gems that give you a competitive edge and make the difference between saying you’re thankful and acting like it.

After all, your customers are your most important asset, and your business decisions should reflect that.

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