Two years ago, I got a handwritten thank you note from the online pet supply store where I buy my cat’s prescription food.
I stared hard at the note and its envelope and ran my finger over the script.
I know there are companies out there that have the capability of orchestrating a human-seeming “handwritten” note that is actually scribed by a machine. But in my experience, there’s usually some tell-tale sign that it was written by a robot.
I couldn’t find any such signs, so I think the CEO who signed the note did actually write it. I was impressed. I told my friends with pets. I told my mom. I actually brought the note to work for my donor stewardship colleagues to examine too.
The note mentioned my cat’s name in particular, and it was simple. It basically said, “we know you have choices about where you spend your money, and we’re grateful that you chose us this year.” They’re right. I do have choices. I had spent quite a bit with that company that year, trying to find the right food solution for my elderly and sickly feline friend. And two years later, I still remember the note—and I still buy pretty much everything I need for my cat from this company.
There are lots of ways to say thank you to your customers—something that we tend to think more about around the holidays. Here are a few tips for making sure your gratitude is received as authentic and sincere.
1. Be specific.
The note mentioned my pet by name—which they discretely asked me for at some point early on when I created my account. They mentioned that I’d been a loyal customer: I used subscription delivery service for staples I needed each month.
The point here is that when the company took the time to write me to say thanks for being a customer, they took the extra step and made sure to include some details that let me know they were thanking me, not my Visa card. If you’re going to spend time thanking customers, take the extra step to make it personal.
2. Get the customer’s name right.
A personalized thank you means a lot, but a nice note to Corrine that is mistakenly addressed to Connie can do more damage than good.
Be careful with titles too. Think about whether it’s aligned with your brand voice to use formal titles like Mr. and Mrs. when you’re communicating with customers. If it is, don’t make assumptions. If you don’t know your customer’s preferred title, don’t make a guess—in my experience, that approach leads to some (preventable) awkward conversations.
3. Acknowledge that your customer has choices.
The most meaningful line in that note was the acknowledgment that I could spend my money anywhere. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of competitors out there. Let your customers know that you genuinely appreciate that they picked you out from the crowd.
4. Thank early and often.
Don’t wait until the holidays to express gratitude. It’s almost free, and it can and should be part of every interaction with your customers and potential patrons.
Even when they’re contacting you because of an issue, think of it as boots on the ground intel about how your business is doing. If you get an email from someone who thinks your company made a mistake or performed poorly, start your response to them by thanking them for bringing the issue to your attention, and mean it. Because if they weren’t telling you something was wrong and giving you the opportunity to correct it, they’d more than likely simply be moving on to one of your competitors and telling all their friends about it along the way.
5. Model a culture of gratitude.
This is especially important for smaller teams in growing companies where individuals are wearing multiple hats.
One of the best ways to model a “common and casual” approach to gratitude (rather than a yearly one-time campaign) is to say thank you to your team for their work and their time. Show appreciation in small ways, then remind them to extend the same courtesy in every interaction with vendors and customers. It’s true, employees are paid for their time and effort, but studies show that a simple thank you can do a lot to increase productivity.
This holiday season, take the opportunity to look at your company’s culture of gratitude. The secret to meaningfully expressing gratitude is to do it without expectation.
Don’t expect your thank you email to double your holiday sales or instantly boost your team’s productivity. It’s not a life (or sales, or customer service) hack. But it is a great way to build positive relationships over the long term with your customers and your team—and that’s worth the effort.
Posted in Customer Service