This month at Checkmate Consulting, we're celebrating three years of serving clients.
Every year that passes, I realize I stand a little straighter when talking about this business. It started from such humble beginnings; I used to be almost apologetic when calling myself a business owner. But with each new client added to our family and each new project completed, I speak a little more confidently about all we're able to accomplish.
With that sense of pride that comes from success, oftentimes business owners forget to be gracious and thankful when interacting with customers. I recently had a very unfortunate run-in with a local business owner of a very successful pastry shop. I got in line past a couple of visitors who were still browsing the shop, and when it was my turn at the counter, the business owner told me I needed to go to the back of the line -- when I was already a paid customer, hadn't cut in line and was simply there to pick up an order.
When the two customers behind me agreed that I hadn't gotten in front of them in line, the business owner still did not acknowledge or apologize her scolding of me. In that moment, her success of her thriving business empowered her not to treat her customers well. And I left the store knowing that it would be my last time purchasing treats from her shop.
You may not be telling your customers to go to the back of the line, but showing gratitude for your customers or clients is a requirement for good business, no matter how profitable or large your business is. Here are three reasons why.
1. Saying Thank You Keeps Your Customers Happy
Your customers or clients are constantly shopping around for the best deal. It may be subconsciously or actively, but they're thinking about their own budgets all the time. That means they're thinking about your competition, and almost always, as a freelancer or contractor, there's someone out there who can do basically what you do for less.
That's when good customer service comes in handy. Saying "thank you for your time" at the end of every conversation, business lunch or email reinforces that you value your clients' time, energy and effort in that interaction. That constant reinforcement of the value you place on not only their dollars but the relationship you have with them keeps you top of mind and viewed as a friend, not a vendor. Friends are harder to replace than vendors.
2. Saying Thank You Is (Nearly) Free
The gift of your time is so precious, but the actual monetary amount required to say "thank you" is so little. Being gracious when answering an email on a Saturday or being grateful for one last glance at a project before it goes to the printer can be so helpful, and in the end, a better end experience for the customer. Good customer service isn't just being a good operator, it's treating the customer well.
Having a positive attitude, especially around the holidays, can be tiring. But your customers feel the impact of that small token of gratitude when every other business, brand or organization they are dealing with is busy trying to expedite the sale. That bit of civility in a sea of chaos with other vendors helps you stand out and stand in a positive light.
3. Saying Thank You Makes You Money
It's a bold claim, but I swear by it: saying thank you means more dollars in your pocket.
One practice I've employed during the last three years is sending thank you cards in the mail to prospective clients. If someone calls me to request a rate sheet or drops an email requesting information about a particular service, I'll follow up with the same form of communication and then write a short, handwritten thank you. I'll pop it (along with my business card) in the mail in the next 48 hours after the contact with the prospective client and be on my way.
And over the years, I've had four prospective clients become paying clients because of that one small gesture. They've moved on to the next thing, and poof, a handwritten note arrives on the desk of the decision maker. It's so old fashioned, my notes get noticed almost immediately. It helps me stand out and above the competition, right around the time a decision maker is choosing a vendor.
For ongoing clients, saying thank you around the holidays is a crucial step to securing future business. I know it's a crazy time, but it's worth the extra effort. When you're filling orders and tracking down that last request, your client is looking at end-of-year projects and beginning to plan for the next calendar year. By reinforcing your commitment to your customer and giving them a small gift with a handwritten Christmas card with your logo, you're treating them well all the way to the end of the year -- and making a fresh, positive impression of yourself for your client.
Each year, my local clients get a large tin of cookies from my favorite bakery, and out-of-town clients get an oversized poinsettia delivered to their location from a local florist. It's about $25 a client, but I know when I reach out in January to discuss 2017 goals, I'll be greeted with a smile.
And that's priceless.
4. BONUS: Saying Thank You Is The Right Thing To Do
Treat others how you want to be treated -- and it's amazing how much goodness will come back your way.