(April 21, 2000)—Have you ever wondered why some tire dealers seem to get those clutch performances or yeoman´s efforts from both employees and suppliers?
Could these dealers´ secret weapon be the forgotten words, "Thank you?´´
Saying thanks appeals to and satisfies one of the most basic and universal human needs: to feel appreciated. How important is feeling appreciated? Any analysis of reasons why employees leave a company always ranks feeling under-appreciated way ahead of low pay.
When I turned wrenches and worked the service desk, I always tried to go the extra yard for customers who acted grateful for whatever we did for them. Rest assured we did the absolute minimum for customers who never learned the "T-word!´´
In retrospect, it was interesting that although we never verbalized our feelings about some customers, our team´s instinctive reaction to the ingrates was the same.
I also remember our relationships with the parts runners from the local auto parts stores as good examples. There were frigid winter days when you almost gagged trying to breathe the cold air as you and your coworkers pushed a dead vehicle into a bay. (It was on those days that this boy developed a taste for coffee.)
Some runners would arrive looking worse for the wear and you just knew the heater in the parts truck wasn´t doing the job that day. When we offered these fellows a hot cup of java to take with them, they reacted as if we´d handed them gold bullion—and the way they treated us showed they never forgot that little gesture.
This wasn´t any Machiavellian game of manipulation. The guy was extremely prompt delivering our parts in spite of the brutal weather and it was second nature to thank him with a hot drink.
Now fast forward to our "enlightened" age of Internet, instant gratification and initial public offerings.
Why do I continually get the impression that a genuine "thank you" is out of vogue? Why do so many people seem so surprised when my wife or I send them a card, flowers, or a bottle of wine for something we perceive to have been a yeoman´s effort on our behalf?
I´m beginning to believe the reason people seem surprised is that what we think is a common gesture may have become relatively uncommon. How else can I express it?
Listening to some people today, I wonder if saying "thank you" has become uncool or perhaps a sign of weakness for the modern business person who´s trying to keep an edge.
I don´t pretend to be perfect or Mr. Goody Twoshoes, but my wife and I were groomed to say thanks because it´s the right thing to do. Moreover, my dad taught me that from a pure business perspective, thanking people was the classy thing to do. It´s a sign of strength and sureness.
To me, thank you´s come in all shapes and sizes. Simply saying thank you is the mandatory first step. Where possible, stop and make good eye contact with the person when you thank them. That body language of physically pausing while you thank the person really underscores the sincerity of your message.
The number of owners and managers I meet who haven´t learned this critical piece of communication skills alarms me!
When you want to emphasize the point a little more, greeting cards work well. I avoid those dopey e-mail greeting cards because I equate them with junk mail. To me, sending an electronic greeting means you´re too lazy to pick up a card and too cheap to buy a stamp.
Plus, most people expect a deluge of e-mail of all kinds. But I sincerely doubt they´re expecting a real greeting card to show up in the mail. Pleasant surprises are welcome surprises.
If you´ve noticed that a particular colleague or supplier drinks coffee or tea, a box of spiced teas or a little bag of special coffee will really light up their day. A pal and colleague from Kansas City once lightened an extremely trying day for me when his thank-you card arrived containing sticks of flavored chewing gum.
There seem to be as many ways of saying that extra thanks as there are good people out there. The most important point is to make it a habit of thanking those who make a difference in your business, and therefore, your lives.
Meanwhile, let me hear your suggestions on your favorite ways to thank suppliers and employees. I´m all ears. &Copy;