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Appreciation GiftThe Customer Experience

In almost every one of my speeches, I talk about the value of showing appreciation. It can be in the form of a thank you note, an email, a phone call – even a text. It’s simply letting someone else know you appreciate them. Taking it a step further, I included it as one of the seven strategies in my book The Amazement Revolution. Specifically, I called it the after-experience, which was all about creating some type of after-experience that is unexpected, appreciated and memorable. It could be a simple thank you, but typically it is something more tangible, although not necessarily expensive. The idea is to create a positive callback to the business you had with a customer. With the holidays looming just ahead, I thought this would be a perfect time to talk about appreciation gifts. Then I had a great dinner with my good friend John Ruhlin who is the ultimate king of appreciation gifts. We talked about my concept of the after-experience, and he had some thoughts worth sharing. He said that so many people focus on showing appreciation after the sale or meeting. Why not do it before? Rather than an after-experience, make it a pre-experience. No one is expecting to get a gift before. The element of surprise is completely on your side. For example, one of John’s major gift lines is Cutco Knives, beautiful high-quality kitchen knives. John shares the story of a client who put together a mastermind of CEO’s to meet to share ideas. Each member of the group is a high-profile business owner or executive. Prior to the first event, John created a custom Cutco chef knife with each member’s and spouse’s names engraved on the blade. This was packaged in a black box with silver writing, which John proudly refers to as his version of the Tiffany blue box. It included a handwritten note from the client that stated: Thanks for “carving out the time and resources” to invest your time and energy. Can’t wait to see you at our first meeting. With gratitude. The members were blown away and the excitement of the upcoming meeting was raised to an even higher level. John shared a similar story of a client who was taking customers on a trip. Two weeks ahead of time the clients received a personalized piece of luggage with the message: We’re just two weeks away from our trip, so pack your bags. We’ll see you soon! The main idea is that the experience begins before the meeting or event takes place. Obviously this won’t work in every situation. For example, if you have a retail store you can’t create a pre-experience for the mall-walking shopper. Even so, the idea of extending the actual experience with interactions that take place before and/or after the main interaction is powerful. Furthermore, John’s comment about gift giving is powerful: It’s more meaningful when you don’t HAVE to do it. Now regarding the gift itself, while John’s gifts are really, really nice, you don’t always have to spend a lot of money – or any money at all – to create an after-experience or pre-experience. Just make it personal. If you buy someone a book, inscribe it with a personal message. Don’t just give someone a gift certificate to a random restaurant. Make it your customer’s favorite restaurant. The key is to make it meaningful and memorable. Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at Connect with Shep on LinkedIn. (Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)

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