What’s the number #1 thing that creates loyal customers? No surprise, it’s the social construct of reciprocity.

Better yet, there is an even more powerful form available for business owners to use: the act of creating surprise reciprocity.

  1. In a study by psychologist Norbert Schwarz, he found that as little as 10 cents was enough to change the outlooks of participants who found the money by surprise, creating a more positive view of their day due to this small high-point.While this study was conducted in 1987, the implications remain the same: it doesn’t take much to start the process of reciprocity; even the smallest of favors allow goodwill to be bought with customers, increasing loyalty and retention.Schwarz succinctly summed up this phenomenon as: “It’s not the value of what you find. It’s that something positive happened to you.”
  2. In another famous study from Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini noted that subjects were prone to rate others as much more likable when they had simply bought them a can of soda.

Source: Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology

One of the best ways to employ this tactic to boost customer retention is to follow up with customers after they make their initial purchase with you.

Surprise them with something – anything will do!

A free guide to their new product often works well for those selling software. For brick-and-mortar locations, things like a free plastic comb work wonders for businesses like barbershops.

Zappos has admitted to regularly upgrading customers to overnight shipping without telling them, just to create a “WOW” factor that wouldn’t have been the same if it was mentioned on the sales page.

Even if you can’t afford a gesture as big as that, remember, it really is the thought that counts!