Customer Loyalty

Creating Meaningful Moments for Customers and Referral Marketing Ambassadors

Devoting time to fostering human connection and infusing extra thoughtfulness into the customer experience yields lasting dividends


When customers at Chewy, the pet supply company, cancel their subscriptions because of their pet's passing, Chewy will send a gift; some customers have received framed drawings of their late pets from Chewy. Framebridge, an online custom art and photo framing company, includes a handwritten note complimenting the customer's design taste in every order.

A mother whose adult son recently passed away wanted to share her appreciation for the family and friends who helped organize her son's funeral. The woman ordered a number of digital gift certificates from Stitch Fix, a fashion subscription box service. Shortly thereafter, the woman received a letter from Stitch Fix: the company saw the multiple gift certificate orders from one customer and did some research. Stitch Fix made a donation to the non-profit organization mentioned in the customer's son's obituary.

A recent LinkedIn post went viral: a customer placed a digital McDonald's order from a hospital. McDonald's (and Uber Eats) delivered the order with a note that the meal was on them.


There's a reason why companies put special effort into personalizing customer experiences, going as far as to plan these acts of kindness, large and small. Devoting time to fostering human connection and infusing extra thoughtfulness into the customer experience yields lasting dividends. When you create "moments" for your customers, they remember your brand with affection and even awe.  Best case scenario: the customer posts about their experience on social media and the post goes viral.  But even without the potential for virality, designing meaningful moments demonstrates next-level customer care, creates word-of-mouth buzz, and takes your relationship marketing efforts to the next level.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote the book on this practice. In "The Power of Moments," the authors, entrepreneurship scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Duke's CASE Center, respectively, argue that creating meaningful moments is the key to cultivating brand loyalty and supercharging word-of-mouth marketing.

To create unexpected and delightful customer experiences, the Heath brothers encourage readers--and business leaders--to "break the script" and "think in moments." Think through where there are opportunities to switch up how you do things. When does your company have the opportunity to engineer a moment so special that it makes users want to take out their phones to snap a photo? Figuring out where specifically you can infuse delight will depend on your company's unique customer touchpoints.  

For inspiration, here are some ideas for how to create meaningful moments for your customers and your referral marketing community members.

Create processes to look for out-of-the-ordinary customer activity

Stitch Fix probably has a practice in place where their customer service team scans orders for abnormalities: a customer ordering more than a few gift certificates outside of the holiday season triggered someone on their team to Google the customer and find her son's obituary.  Think about what would make customer purchases unusual in your business and establish processes for exploring when something looks out of the ordinary.

Send handwritten notes

When was the last time you received a handwritten note from a brand?  If you've ever received one, odds are you are going to remember it forever.  While this might not be scalable for all new customers, it may be worth the investment to welcome all new members to your referral marketing program in writing with a handwritten card.

Level up your company swag game

If branded company swag is a successful aspect of your marketing strategy, can you incorporate delight and seasonality into how you create and distribute company swag? Send your east coast clients branded sunglasses or little bottles of sunscreen to mark the start of June.  If you cater to a cerebral or goal-oriented customer base, send them branded journals in the start of January and wish them well with following through on their goals in the new year.

Celebrate customer anniversaries

If a longtime customer or longtime account is celebrating an anniversary with your company, put special effort into recognizing it.  A personal phone call from your CEO or a "lunch on us!" gift certificate to a popular meal delivery service is a relatively low-lift way to show your customers that you are grateful for their business and excited for the year ahead.

Recognize customer birthdays

Unless your product is enterprise software with a very buttoned-up brand, most customers won't blink an eye if you ask for their birthdays at sign-up. 

Not every meaningful moment needs to involve a big budget-- just a lot of heart. Ask your marketing team members if they want to send birthday cards to the customers who share their birthdays. Those with August birthdays could mention, "Isn't it great that we never had to go to school on our birthday growing up?" or those with December birthdays could commiserate, "Seeing as how your birthday falls so close to the December holidays, like mine, I hope you had at least one cool aunt who gave you two sets of presents when you were a kid."  Your team can infuse that extra layer of caring and detail, every step of the way.

Go over the top for your referral marketing ambassadors

Look at your metrics and see who your top-referring ambassadors are. If you want to spend money to celebrate customer birthdays in really creative ways, this is a fitting place to dedicate that budget. For example, you can send one of your top-performing ambassadors an engraved pen in advance of their 30th birthday with a thoughtful note: "Turning 30 means you should have a really nice pen." 

The Heath brothers warn that business leaders and marketers who want to create memorable moments should "beware the soul-sucking force of reasonableness." That is certainly the case when it comes to engineering meaningful moments for your referral marketing ambassadors.

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