A happy customer is a good customer. This is a commonly accepted way of looking at the seller-buyer relationship. However, this is often more easily said than done.
What makes the customer happy, and how can the seller affect this? These questions have resulted in various ways of rewarding customer. In business-to-consumer scenarios, this has resulted in for example loyalty programs involving loyalty cards and in building communities, which, at least from the seller’s perspective make sense (or at least so one would hope). As a business traveller you are rewarded with points for each mile that you travel or for each dollar that you spend when staying the night at a specific hotel (chain), and so on.
In a business-to-business scenario however, the situation is somewhat different. A question that some of our clients sometime ask is: how do companies reward companies? Do they set up loyalty programs? Well, in some way some companies argue that they do, for example through service level agreements (SLAs), but then again – not really. Customers (companies) usually pay for the service level that they are provided based on what has been stipulated in the SLA. In some situations, the selling company may reward their contact person at the buying company in one way or the other. However, instead of rewarding their customer (i.e. the buying company), they settle for remembering the person(s) so he/she (they) would continue doing business with the salesperson. This is one way of getting around the actual challenge related to how companies can reward companies.
Regardless if referring to a business-to-consumer or a business-to-business scenario, the seller (person or selling company) should reward its good customers in a way that makes sense to the customer. Far too often, rewarding the customer is conducted in a way that makes sense for the seller, without finding out if this also makes sense for the customer. What usually makes sense is something that the customer considers being valuable. Thus, the seller should find out what the customer finds valuable. Providing the customer with something that is of value (either for themselves or for improving value-creation to their customers) is probably the best and longest lasting way of rewarding them for being good customers.