I Think What You Meant to Say Was, "Thank You"

As a customer service consultant, I am constantly stressing the importance of the little things to my clients. I believe that people and organizations that focus on the details (big or small) are ultimately the ones that stand out from other businesses. That’s why I am a big believer in the importance of saying “thank you.”

People appreciate being thanked for their actions. It doesn’t matter if it was for purchasing something, holding a door open for somebody, going above and beyond at work, etc. That small “thank you” (or lack thereof) from a customer, a random stranger or a boss can go a long way in determining how you behave moving forward.

Obviously, saying “thank you” to someone that is paying you for a product or service is just good business (though it gets missed a lot more often than it should). This also applies to people that hold a door open for you or let you in while driving. Maybe saying “thank you” from the car isn’t practical, but a wave of thanks should be common practice (though it’s not and it drives me crazy). 

I also believe that thanking your employees for a job well done, or for demonstrating the right behaviors is something that management should always be doing. 

Retaining excellent employees is a strong concern for all organizations in today's workplace. Many studies have confirmed that an employee's direct boss has the greatest impact on retention.

Connected to this is the abundance of employee exit interviews that indicate a lack of recognition or appreciation as one of the top reasons for quitting a company. Therefore, it makes sense that the most effective recognition comes from the employee's direct manager. 

The Importance of Saying Thank You

Organizations are always on the lookout for the reward/recognition program that will maximize employee performance. While these programs can be effective, it’s important to know that a program can never take the place of a sincere thank you from the boss.

If you want employees to exceed the expectations of your customers, it’s vital that you recognize them when they perform in a manner that exceeds expectations. If you want employees to perform in a manner consistent with your service standards, it’s vital that you notice when they do so and recognize their performance.

Employee Communication Strategies

Communication with our teams is always important, but in today’s environment effective communication is essential. There are a number of communication strategies that any leader can implement.

As we continue to deal with COVID-19 and the impact it has on our daily lives, leaders should be on the lookout to recognize those employee behaviors they desire. Something as small as expressing gratitude for the employee that goes the extra mile can go a long way towards job satisfaction and even building your employees’ self-esteem.

There is a very real phenomenon called "extinction." This occurs when we ignore performance of a desired behavior. If you desire responsiveness from employees, yet ignore them when they demonstrate excellent responsiveness, the behavior will eventually become extinct and performance will revert to previous levels (not necessarily bad, but not at the desired, higher level).

Other studies have demonstrated that recognition has its greatest impact when it takes place immediately after the behavior. When an employee does something special for a customer (external or internal), his or her emotions are elevated because they know they did something good. If the leader recognizes the employee while the emotion is still high, it dramatically increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated.

The more time that passes, the less impact the recognition will have (although it may still be appreciated). The point is, don't lose the magic of the moment when it comes to recognizing performance. I’ve always enjoyed the quote by Gertrude Stein “Silent gratitude isn’t of much use to anyone.” If someone does something good, tell them and reinforce the behavior. 

The Importance of Storytelling

Another important aspect of recognition is storytelling. Effective storytelling "locks in" recognition. As a leader, if you have recognized an individual for excellent performance, tell the story at the next staff meeting. And really tell the story.  

Let everyone know what the person did and the impact it had. Better yet, depending on the situation let the employee tell the story. This not only makes the employee feel good, it allows his/her co-workers to join in the celebration. This type of storytelling helps perpetuate a commitment to service excellence.

The word "recognition," in fact, comes from the Latin, "to know again." Effective recognition allows the employee to know again the feeling of performing at a high level or reaching a significant milestone.

*If you are looking for ways to improve your storytelling, I highly recommend you check out Kindra Hall and her book, “Stories That Stick.” 

Along with a lack of recognition, there are a number of other mistakes that companies consistently make when it comes to customer service.  As a thank you for being here, I want to provide you with a free resource, “The Top 5 Customer Service Mistakes That Companies Make and How Your Organization Can Avoid Them.”  To access the free report, please visit www.snowassociates.com/customerservicemistakes

You can also reach out to us at (407) 294-1855 if you’d like to learn about our customer service training.  Or, email us at danny@snowassociates.com

About the Author
Dennis Snow is the president of Snow & Associates, Inc. Dennis worked with the Walt Disney World Company for twenty years and now consults with organizations around the world, helping them achieve their customer service goals. He is the author of "Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service" and "Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life." You can reach Dennis at (407) 294-1855 or visit his website at www.snowassociates.com.