Giving Thanks for Customers, Employees & All That is Good

In the craziness of everyday life, it’s easy to forget about the good things that are happening all around us. How often do you focus on the things you haven’t done? You think about the phone calls you didn’t get to, the orders that didn’t ship out today, the presentation you still need to finish.

And then you listen to the news, which rarely ever makes you feel better about your situation.  I know you listen because I hear your conversations around me. The housing market! Gas prices! Heidi and Seal’s children! Oh the horrors!

Take this moment, this day, this month to focus on giving THANKS for all the good that IS in your life. Pay attention to what the people around you are doing RIGHT. Look for and praise the employee who shows up on time and takes initiative. Say thank you to her. Think about all the good clients you have, the ones you enjoy talking to and working for. Let them know they’re special. Recognize the effort that your vendor makes when you absolutely, positively have to have your order shipped out today. Tell them you value their heroic effort.

I recently read an article that suggested people don’t say thank you because they’re afraid that if they do, somewhere down the line they’ll be asked to “pay up”. For example, if you recognize an employee’s efforts, you’ll have to give him a raise. But the writer went on to point out that if you think about the times when you’ve been thanked, you’ll realize you are not then mentally figuring out how much the other person owes you. That’s just not how appreciation works.

While you’re at it, take some time to show some appreciation to yourself. Maybe you didn’t get everything crossed off your list this week, but give yourself credit for what you DID accomplish. Here’s a nice pat on the back.

Tis The Season To Spread A Little Joy Among Retail Clerks

The elves and I have been super busy packing holiday orders, so when I saw this article by my associate Ross Reck on his blog, I thought it was so very kind of Ross to write something that would save me from having to write my own post today. 🙂 Remember, my friends, show a little kindness and gratitude for the clerks!

This is the time of the year when retail clerks catch a lot of undeserved verbal abuse from the people they’re trying to serve.  Stores are crowded, people are in a hurry, check-out lines are long and tempers are short.  Under these circumstances, a kind word or gesture from you can brighten a retail clerk’s day.

I read where one person carried small packets of M&M’s in his pocket to give to clerks as he was going through the check-out process.  He would simply put it in their hand and say, “I hope your day is going well.”  Showing an interest in their welfare can also brighten their day.  During last year’s holiday season, I was checking out in a grocery store and I asked the clerk how her day was going.

She responded with, “Wow!  Somebody asking me how my day is going; now there’s a switch!”  We then proceeded to have a very pleasant conversation.  Several days later, I was back at that same grocery store and the check-out lines were long.  That same clerk spotted me and said, “I’ll open my register for you. Come with me.”  I then let her know how much I appreciated her kindness.  She looked at me and said, “We always remember the nice ones.”  So, take the time to spread a little joy among retail clerks this holiday season.  It will brighten their day and yours as well.

Dr. Ross Reck is the coauthor of Instant Turnaround!, REVVED! and the best selling The Win-Win Negotiator.  He is also the author of Turning Your Customers into Your Sales Force, The X-Factor and his very popular newsletter:  Ross Reck’s Weekly Reminder.

It’s Customer Service Week

This is Customer Service Week. Now you might think that every week, or every day, is about providing excellent customer service. That’s what I would say too. But this week is actually more about recognizing the people on your team who work with your customers and help ensure that they are properly taken care of.

If you have people who service your customers, this week is a great time to:

  • Boost morale, motivation and teamwork.
  • Reward frontline reps.
  • Increase company-wide awareness of the importance of delivering super customer service.
  • Thank colleagues in other departments for their support.
  • Remind customers of your team’s commitment to creating raving fans.

There are a million ways to show your appreciation for your fantastic team members. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Throw a party and provide breakfast, lunch or afternoon treats.
  • Hand out certificates of appreciation.
  • Bring in a massage therapist to provide seated or chair massages.
  • Play games or other fun activities and award prizes.
  • Give away special gifts (Gratitude Cookies or Zen Crunch make an especially nice gesture).

It’s not so much about what you choose to do, as much as that you do something to recognize the efforts of your customer service team.

A Year of Thank Yous

I recently saw a review of the book “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.” Author John Kralik was just about at rock bottom in his life – his law firm was failing, he was in the midst of a divorce, was overweight, lived in a crappy apartment, was out of contact with his kids, and so on. And during a New Year’s Day walk, he decided that maybe he could find a way to be grateful for what he had.

Sure, we’ve all heard about keeping a Gratitude Journal, and that’s all fine and good. But John took it a step further and, inspired by a thank you note he had received, determined to hand write 365 thank-you notes in the coming year. He shared his gratitude for kindness shown by family, friends, colleagues, store clerks, neighbors, etc. Miraculously, he became the beneficiary of all kinds of fortune, which is really not all that surprising if you understand karma.

SO even though I haven’t yet read the book, I decided to take up the challenge of doing the same thing. The timing is of course perfect because we’re just at the start of a new year. I actually think I’m going to have MORE than 365 people to write to, although at the moment the list is only running in my head and I haven’t any idea how many are on it. I’m wondering how I might reach people I’d like to thank but for whom I have no address. Guess I’ll figure that out somehow.

I posted this goal on Facebook and got some logistics questions. Making up my own rules here, these thank yous will be handwritten and mailed or hand delivered, as appropriate. They will not be posted on any social media site, as I don’t intend for them to be public declarations. The thank you notes I write to first time Zen Rabbit clients don’t count as part of the 365.

I’m excited to get started. I’ve been thinking about who I will choose to kick it all off and I think I know, but I’ve got another day of contemplation before I have to actually write. So many possibilities! Which only serves to emphasize how blessed I am to have such a pool of people from which to pick.

A few friends indicated that they too are up for the task. How about you? Get your fine stationery, the writing implement of your favor and start thanking!

What to do When Your Hair’s Not on Fire

While Christmas is still a few days away, the holidays are pretty much over at Zen Rabbit. It was a busy season. Year over year sales are up 27%! But unlike at Amazon.com, orders from my client base do not typically keep coming in right up till Christmas Eve. The majority of Zen Rabbit’s orders ship to or from businesses, so their sentiments have pretty much been exchanged.

It’s an odd feeling. After running for weeks like my hair’s on fire, all of a sudden I’ve got nothing to do. Okay, not completely nothing – there are thank you notes to be written and reading to catch up on – but going at such a slow pace may as well be not moving at all.

And yes, I get that this is okay, even necessary. It’s still uncomfortable. So as I sit at my desk with a box of crayons, colored pencils and “Coloring Mandalas” book, finally taking time for one of my favorite relaxing activities, I’ll continue working on being comfortable with being uncomfortable, knowing that this philosophy is what life is all about.

Client Appreciation for Financial Advisors

Before I started writing this article, I did a quick Google search on “client appreciation for financial advisors.” Most of what came up was all about client appreciation events, which are very common in the industry. My guess as to why is that advisors hope their clients bring friends with them to the event so the planner can get an introduction for potential new business. This is all fine and good, nothing wrong with hosting appreciation events, but I’m not crazy about them as a way to really show your thanks or differentiate yourself.

Sure, some financial planners may host events that are real blowouts, the kind of “you have GOT to be there” parties that people talk about for months. But most don’t come close to that.

Like gift cards, these appreciation dinners have three main drawbacks. One, they’re not personal. It’s a party for a bunch of people, not in honor of them personally. Two, they require your clients to make an effort. And a majority of your clients are not excited about making any efforts outside of their normal routine. Three, if everyone’s doing them, how then are you so special?

That’s why if you really want to let your clients know you value them, you send them something that requires no effort on their part – a genuine token of thanks that can be enjoyed right away, without sharing, in the privacy of their own home. In case you haven’t noticed, especially in America, people like instant gratification.

A survey done earlier this year of registered investment advisors found that most saw an increase in assets under management, coming from both new and existing clients. So you’ve got lots of new people with whom it would behoove you to strengthen bonds. Additionally, the study revealed almost 25% of advisors expected to increase spending in client appreciation activities. If you’re going to increase spending, don’t you want to make sure you’re doing it effectively?

Here are 3 better ways for financial advisors to reach out to their clients:

1. Handwritten notes – even if your assistant writes them. Send a card to say thanks at a random time, other than a birthday.

2. Gourmet food – people love treats, so send something they’d not likely find or buy for themselves and let them indulge courtesy of you. Food is a very social and nurturing thing; it says, “I care,” which is why it’s received particularly well.

3. Books – do you have a favorite recommendation? Sharing something you enjoy allows your clients to feel a closer relationship and who knows, maybe you’ll introduce them to a new genre or author that they would have never otherwise discovered.

There’s no doubt that building tighter relationships with your clients is essential to the success of your business. Just make sure the money you spend actually accomplishes what you intend.

Good Idea to Pay for a Good Deed?

The concept first showed up to me in Dan Ariely’s book “Predictably Irrational.” I just finished “Drive” by Dan Pink and he talks about it too. So it’s high time I mention it here.

Paying people for doing nice things for you is not only ineffective, it’s insulting. Think about how you might feel if you did a favor for someone and he turned around and said, “hey buddy, thanks a lot. Here’s 25 bucks.” Or a friend shows up to your dinner party and instead of presenting you with a nice bottle of wine or a yummy dessert, she hands you some cash. You’d think, wow, that’s kind of weird.

There are two sets of norms in our society – social norms and market norms. Social norms are the domain of friendly requests, good deeds and warm and fuzzy. Market norms are about monetary exchanges in transactions such as wages, prices, rents, etc. Life is good when you understand the difference and keep them separate.

Things get a little hairy though when you start mixing the two. And that’s what happens in business when you pay people for giving you referrals. Essentially, when you pay a commission to someone who is not an employee for giving you a referral, you’re making a financial transaction.

Many times people make referrals because they want to be helpful. They’re not necessarily looking for anything in return. It’s a social exchange. And in social exchanges, gifts are the most acceptable type of “reward.”

Not only are small gifts more the accepted norm, giving them instead of money actually increases the likelihood that they will continue to share information with you. Studies have shown people will work more for a cause (or something they believe is worthy) than for cash. Both Ariely’s and Pink’s books address the reasoning behind this in more depth and I recommend reading them. But suffice it to know that if you want more referral business, saying thank you with a small gift or gesture is more effective than offering legal tender. Yes, even in “this economy.”