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Image courtesy of *ambees*

Do you thank your customers for their business? In a meaningful way? At every interaction?

Showing gratitude is one of the simplest – yet most powerful – things humans can do for each other. -Randy Pausch

I wrote a blog post last year about The Lost Art of Thank You Notes, and it has been the most popular post I’ve written to date. It was a very simple post, and yet perhaps I’m not the only one who thinks expressions of gratitude have gone by the wayside. Maybe companies think that it’s a waste of time or that customers don’t care. Maybe they don’t care about customers. Maybe they don’t appreciate our business. Or maybe…

Let’s just say that I don’t think I’m saying anything groundbreaking here. It’s simple. Perhaps even common sense. O, don’t get me started on that again.

Surely saying “thank you” to the customer standing in front of you is simple to do. If your people don’t do it, you need to rethink your employee onboarding/training – or better yet – rethink your hiring.

But the customer isn’t  always standing in front of you. Sometimes, you actually never get to see the customer. Sometimes, the customer doesn’t even know you’re the one behind the scenes. (More on that one in a moment.) It’s for that reason – saying thanks to customers you never see – that I’m going to share this story.

First, a step back. Recall that last week I wrote about the second annual trip to the circus with my kids. We had an amazing time, and the post was as much about that show (and how much Ringling Bros. “gets” what constitutes a great experience) as it was about the consistency of the experience across the two shows we’d seen – a year apart.

The day after I posted that one, I received an email from Feld Entertainment, producers of the show, thanking me for attending the show. While I’ve received these kinds of follow-up emails from the Anaheim Angels (sorry, Los Angeles – they’re still the Anaheim Angels to me!) and the Anaheim Ducks with post-game wrap-ups, I just thought that, on top of the amazing experience already delivered by the circus, this thank you was a nice way to cap it off. (Trust me – the baseball and hockey games weren’t necessarily amazing experiences.)

The image above only shows half of the email… on the bottom half, they offer a link to sign up to become a Preferred Customer, ways to engage with them through social media, and links to the other events they produce. And, as a thank you gift, they also included a $5 discount per ticket for upcoming events through 2015! Given that the discount code is good for the next two and a half years, I’m guessing that I can use it multiple times. Nice.

For me, though, it didn’t stop there. Remember I mentioned that “sometimes, the customer doesn’t even know you’re the one behind the scenes?” Well, there was one more “thank you” that I received, which isn’t one that other customers will get. To my surprise, the next day I received an email from Alana Feld, and she graciously gave me permission to share her note with you.

Hi Annette,

My name is Alana Feld and along with my sister Nicole, we are the producers of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.  I came across your blog post on your recent visit to “Built To Amaze” and wanted to thank you for your thoughtful review of your and your family’s experience.

As you may or may not know, we are family owned and operated business, and Ringling Bros. has been in our family for over 45 years.  My sister and I are the third generation to produce Ringling Bros. and we take great pride in providing entertaining, awe-inspiring, and most importantly, memorable experiences for families.

Your post was extremely insightful.  It was gratifying to read your review because you touched on all the attributes we aim to possess.  Thank you for attending the show and returning again this year.  I hope you and your family will continue to make Ringling Bros an annual tradition.

Best Regards,
Alana Feld

We exchanged a couple emails, and she even offered me a tour of their elephant conservation facility, which isn’t open to the public, the next time I’m in the area. Even without this, I’m a fan, and it is a tradition that I’ll continue with my kids.

Maybe I got a little off topic here, but saying “thank you,” whether in person, in a card, by email, or in whatever medium you choose, is an essential part of your relationship with your customers and of the overall customer experience. I wrote about the components of an apology last fall, and I think thank yous have their own set of criteria or qualities. When you express gratitude, written or spoken, it should be:

  • Sincere
  • Timely
  • Personalized
  • Consistent

Yup, consistency is an important factor in this, as well. Am I missing any?

You don’t have to offer discounts or freebies. A thank you is a thank you. It doesn’t have to be about getting more business down the line. It’s about appreciating the business you already have. And if you get the experience right – expressing appreciation simply supports what has already been done. And the business will come.

Express appreciation for their business when customers walk in the door (acquisition) and when they leave (cancel, churn). Manners and etiquette go a long way toward building, securing, and solidifying a relationship. And yes, even (especially) when customers end your relationship, be sure to thank them for their business. It leaves a great last impression, which in turn becomes a lasting impression.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy