3 Ways to Make a Genuine Impact Simply by Saying Thanks

What you say is important...but so is the way you say it.
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What is your ultimate goal when you land a new customer? To satisfy, delight, exceed expectations, create the "wow factor"?

Absolutely...but this is your ultimate goal: Turn a new customer into a long-term customer.

You do that by building relationships, and the best way to start building a relationship is by expressing your thanks and gratitude--in the right way and using the right tools.

Here are the pros and cons of different approaches, and when it makes the best sense to use each one:

Email

Autoresponder "Thank you for your business!" emails are one step above worthless. (Do you open any emails that carry even a whiff of automatic generation? I don't either.)

Sending a formulaic, template-based thank you email may be worse than sending nothing at all, because it establishes an air of impersonality--and impersonal is the kiss of death to a long-term customer relationship.

Email thanks work best if you want to provide complete contact details or pass on information useful to the customer.

For example:

  • "Thanks...here's my complete contact information. Contact me any time..."
  • "Thanks...and here's a link to the article/website/resource we talked about..."
  • "Thanks...as promised, attached is our resource guide..."

Always customize the subject line to make sure a thank you email is opened. "Thanks from ACME Consulting" is like kryptonite to a potential Supercustomer. "Link to the great resource we discussed..." is personal and specific.

Bonus tip: Never try to generate additional sales with a thank you email. How sincere does, "Thanks for your business; now buy more stuff!" come across? Thank you emails should always provide, never request.

Phone Call

Saying thanks by phone can be tricky. On the one hand, a phone call is personal, sincere, and furthers a connection. On the other hand, a phone call can be an unwelcome and awkward interruption.

While it might sound counterintuitive, in most situations a phone call is the least preferred way to say thanks. Imagine this conversation:

You: "Hi Phil, this is Jeff.... I just wanted to say thanks again for choosing us."

Phil: "You're welcome."

You: "Um...so, hey, like I said...thanks again...and have a great day!"

Unless you like uncomfortable pauses, a thank you phone call must have a secondary purpose.

For example:

  • "Thanks...I'm calling to set up an appointment to (provide the service you sold)..."
  • "Thanks...I want to make sure everything went well the other day..."
  • "Thanks...I want to follow up with the information that wasn't available when we met..."

Stay brief, to the point, and above all be sincere. And don't try to sell immediately after the sale. Say thanks the right way, and you'll live to sell another day.

Bonus tip: If you must say thanks by phone, consider calling after business hours and leaving a message. Your call is less likely to be seen as an interruption and avoids the possibility of any "just called to say thanks" awkwardness.

Handwritten Note

Perfect when you want your message to be read, don't need a response, and wish to convey genuine sincerity.

Many people delete emails unseen; everyone opens "real" mail. Just make sure you include a personal detail so the note doesn't feel generic:

  • "Thanks...we especially look forward to working with your new facility in..."
  • "Thanks...I look forward to seeing you at the game next week..."
  • "Thanks...I'll be in (your city) again in three weeks and hope to catch up with you in person then..."

Bonus tip: Don't reach too hard for a personal detail. "Say hi to your husband and kids..." falls flat when you've never met the customer's family.

"Personal" doesn't have to mean non-work; "personal" can be specific to the customer's business.

Final thought: Whenever possible, tailor how you communicate your appreciation to the preferences of your customer. Some may enjoy and even be reassured by consistent phone calls; others see a phone as the communication mode of last resort.

Creating a long-term customer is based on knowing your customer, so start by knowing how they wish to communicate so you can say thank you the right way--which is always their way.

More on the power of saying thanks:

IMAGE: Night Owl Paper Goods
Last updated: Aug 12, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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