Since we all know it’s easier and much less expensive to keep a good customer than it is to find a new one, why don’t all businesses like phone carriers, banks, restaurants, and even retail shops take this knowledge seriously?

I recently switched to a smaller telephone carrier that offered me a 30- to 50-percent discount on every call I make. For a sales rep whose monthly phone bill exceeds her mortgage payment, this was an attractive offer.

Since switching a couple of months ago, I have been getting lots of calls and letters from AT&T offering me a similar deal if I come back. Why is it that they didn’t reward me for being a good and loyal customer in the first place, so that I wouldn’t have a reason to switch to another carrier?

The same theory holds true for all businesses. Make sure your loyal customers know you appreciate them. There are many examples of customer-loyalty programs that promote a positive relationship with key customers and pose little, if any, financial burden to the owner: offering special discounts to frequent buyers, holding invitation-only sales at the store, or sending special offers through the mail are just a few. Give certain individuals access to products before anyone else, such as next year’s boards. Allow them to custom-order clothing from the catalog. Invite customers to be guests at special events that you are sponsoring. Hold a picnic once a year in appreciation of customers and employees, and ask them for suggestions when they are in the shop.

There are many ways to show your customers you appreciate them. Not only will it keep them from buying from the competition, but having customer-loyalty programs can entice your existing customers to purchase more frequently and/or spend more money when they do purchase.

By Anka Corbin