It’s about six months from Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., which means it’s a good time to think about gratitude. Because we tend to really focus on gratitude only around the Thanksgiving holiday when in fact, it should be at the forefront of our minds on a daily basis.

A basic need all customers share is the need to feel appreciated. No one wants to be taken for granted. Yet too many companies do just that. Oh sure, they say they appreciate our business. But usually it’s said in a rushed, insincere manner by people who were forced to memorize the company’s end-of-transaction script by rote. That type of a thank-you doesn’t mean anything to customers. (And signs and voice-mail-hold messages mean even less!)

What really matters is this: How do you show your appreciation? How well do you show your appreciation? And how often do you show your appreciation? Your words may ring hollow, but your actions communicate a powerful message. Two examples:

A few years ago, I hired a brilliant business strategist, Aldonna Ambler, for some coaching work. Every year since, she sends me a gift on my birthday. It’s an annual reminder that she appreciates the time, money and trust I invested with her. And it’s why I’m constantly on the lookout for referrals for her.

A while back I called AT&T Wireless about a larger than normal bill, which turned out to be my own fault. The customer service representative said, “I see you’ve been a loyal customer for many years. I’m going to give you a $100 courtesy credit.” That one act said more about their appreciation for my business than all the verbal thank-you’s I’ve ever heard combined. And it’s kept me with AT&T ever since.

How can you better demonstrate your gratitude to your clients?  Here are a few ideas:
• Send a hand-written thank-you note
• Send a gift
• Send a gift card
• Send an article
• Waive a late charge
• Give them a bonus
• Give them an upgrade
• Take them out to lunch or dinner
• Invite them to a round of golf
• Give them a referral
• Let them be the first to try your new product or service at no charge
• Give them a coupon for a free product or service (with no strings attached)
• Throw a party for them
• Make a donation to a charity in their name

Do you merely tell your clients you appreciate them? Or do you prove it? The latter will get you stronger customer loyalty, more repeat business and more referrals.