If you want to keep your customers coming back to your business, give them a surprise. Do something unexpected for them, and your name will earn a prominent place in their mental filing cabinet securely placed with "Stores to return to" and "Service providers to recommend."
The surprise you give your customers doesn't have to be a big one. In fact, it's the small touches that resonate with meaning, that make them feel like their order is more than just another job on your list. In fact, it was a little thing that sparked this idea for me. We got a Christmas card from Ed Plante Auto Detailing last year. The card wasn't anything special, but there was a surprise inside that made it stand out from all the other business associates' holiday greetings we received: he included a picture of our family SUV taken after his last detailing. In other words, he surprised us with a small, personal touch that made us feel just a tiny bit special.
When you do a little something extra like Ed did, you acknowledge your customer as a friend, as someone whose good feelings toward you warrant particular attention. The picture itself wasn't any big deal either, but, as your mother always said, it's the thought that counts.
The main factor to keep in mind is that what you do needs to be slightly out of the ordinary, something the customer doesn't expect. That means it doesn't have to occur at the point of service; in fact, surprises work really well when they come later, after the customer has started to forget the last time they did business with you. Secondly, the surprise should have a personal angle to it. If it's something you do for every customer, like the book store clerk who automatically puts a bookmark in the bag with every order, it's not going to prompt anybody to give it a second thought.
Different kinds of businesses present all sorts of opportunities to give customers great surprises. The picture Ed sent was of our clunky old family SUV with a fresh wax job. Can you imagine what kind of impact an unexpected picture of an auto restyler customer's tricked-out rides would have? Those customers' cars mean a lot or they wouldn't be spending money on them. To the auto shop customer, getting a picture of his car is like getting a picture of his kids-maybe better!