When people arrive home at the end of a workday and go through the day’s mail, generic postcards addressed to you “…or Current Resident” usually go right into the trash. Retail catalogs -- if you’re a regular shopper of the brand -- might be put aside for later. Bills are viewed with a disdainful sigh, but a handwritten note is something that stands out, and is likely the first piece you’ll open. If it happens to be a business thank you note, sent in appreciation for a recent transaction, it’s all the more pleasantly surprising. And, according to research, welcomed and helpful in building customer loyalty.
Think for a moment about all the larger business dealings you’ve had so far this year. How many of those were followed up with a thank you note for your business? Likely not many, but if you did manage to get one, you probably recalled it immediately.
I purchased a new car a few months back. A week later, a thank you note from the salesman arrived. Yes, it was on dealership stationery, but it was obvious “George” had written it, addressed it, stamped it and mailed it. In subsequent conversations with friends about my new car, I made sure to enthusiastically mention the thank you note, and I’m not one to normally gush. It made that big of an impact.
It should be obvious why. If a salesperson takes the time and energy to craft and send a personal thank you note, the message is more than just the words on a page. It shows that they appreciate you and your business, and want to acknowledge that. In short, it drives home the message that you matter to them.
The Emily Post Institute, the online home of longtime manners-maven Emily Post, expanded on that thought in a piece titled, The Importance of the Handwritten Thank You Note: “There is simply nothing as personal as a handwritten note,” it said. “In a stack of bills and flyers, it’s a treasure in a sealed packet, full of promise and potential. It is a visceral reminder of someone.” It would seem obvious that sending a handwritten thank you note makes an impact.
There are also strong business benefits to thanking someone for their patronage:
- University of North Carolina Psychologist Sara Algoe advocates expressing thanks for the “Find, Remind, and Bind” aspect of expressing gratitude. According to her theory, “Gratitude starts new friendships (find), orients people to existing social relationships (remind), and promotes existing relationships (bind).” It’s an idea worth keeping in mind as you work to retain customers.
- Entrepreneur Charles Gaudet agreed, writing in The Predictable Profits Playbook, a study on how to dominate any market, “The more sincere … and the more genuine your ‘thank you’ … the better your customers will respond to you,” he said. “It’s just another reason why authenticity is paramount in your business.”
- Never underestimate the power of gratitude. “At the end of the day, your customers are among the most important parts of your company’s success,” wrote Brittney Ervin, on the Inbound Marketing Agent’s blog. “Their support, referrals and positive reviews help boost your business and your brand, and help you achieve your goals.”
- Insiders at Entrepreneur magazine echo that sentiment. “Taking the time to write a thoughtful note indicates a deeper level of appreciation than simply dashing off a short email or text,” they noted in a recent post on ’10 Ways to Say Thank You.’ “Because the hand-written letter is pretty much a lost art, the extra effort will not go unnoticed and may make customers more inclined to give you repeat business.”
Retaining customer loyalty is a big factor, but there’s a financial side as well. Gartner says that “65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied.” It makes sense to take some small steps to keep the customers you have, happy.
As noted, a simple action like sending a thank you note gives the customer a tangible piece of evidence that you value their business. While an email can simply be deleted with one quick click, a written card that was delivered -- and needed to be handled and opened -- carries more weight.
Even better, the technology is now available to allow companies to easily send out thank you notes to every customer after a transaction. But unlike the old ‘form letters’, these notes are generated with personalized details, and they can be produced with software that perfectly mimics handwriting. People who receive it will read the note, digest the message, and maybe put it down only to be picked up and re-read again later.
Every time they do so, it reinforces the message that the sender cared enough to acknowledge them. For all the time and money you spend in cultivating and signing a customer, it just makes sense to go that little extra distance to keep the customer. Acknowledging your gratitude in writing is a good place to start.
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