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Jack Burke Jack Burke , 12/10/2013
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Webster defines “thanks” as “the polite expression of gratitude” and “gratitude” as “the state of being grateful.” Unfortunately today’s busy world keeps many people from expressing gratitude to their clients – and their employees!  It’s not that we’re ungrateful; but seldom take the opportunity to express this feeling.  Sad state of affairs, isn’t it?

I’ve often talked about your competition not being the agency down the street.  Your true competition consists of other merchants and businesses that keep raising the bar of customer expectations.  A restaurant in Branson, MO recently raised this bar to a higher level.

We recently joined several friends for a post-holiday dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, a new restaurant in downtown Branson.  Definitely upscale, Sullivan’s isn’t bashful about their pricing.  Without factoring in the drinks, the average dinner will cost you about $75 per person.  To justify the prices, the ambience is understated “New York,” with beautiful wood tones throughout, and plenty of people providing service to your table.  The food is well prepared and nicely presented; the service exceptional.
-However, I did not leave the restaurant with a strong urge to return.  The main reason was that the food didn’t “Wow” me.  Although dood, it definitely wasn’t on a par with Morton’s – although the prices were.  Second, because about a third of the dining area had a noise problem with the kitchen ventilation we had to ask to be seated in a quieter area.  Third, the tables were jammed together pretty tightly.  As a result, I felt that I while would probably eat there again, I wouldn’t go out of my way to do so.-
Sullivan’s saving grace arrived in the mail two days later by way of a thank-you note.  The restaurant got our address when my wife filled out a contact information card at the table offering periodic special offers and events.  A thank-you card from a restaurant is somewhat rare, but not unusual.  The unique factor was that the note was handwritten by our server:

Dear Mrs. Burke,

Thank you for dining with us.  It was my pleasure to serve you and 
I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon.



The bar has been raised!  As a fine dining establishment, Sullivan’s will be serving most of the businesspeople in Branson at one time or another.  Accountants, lawyers, insurance professionals and others will now be judged using a benchmark set by waiters at a restaurant.  The common thought might be, “If Sullivan’s can say ‘thank-you’ in such a personal way, why can’t _______________?”
How long has it been since you expressed your gratitude to a valued client in a personal way?  We lose more clients by taking them for granted than we do to price!  I’m not talking about the obligatory periods of gifting – but about the occasional call, visit or note to let them know that you are grateful for their business.  People like to be acknowledged and to know that others value them.  Do your clients feel valued?
Do you send personal “thank-you’s” to prospects at the various stages of the sales process – after the first meeting or call, after the fact-finding meeting, after the presentation and after the sale?  Each of these events presents an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition by a personal expression of gratitude for their time, their consideration, and their business.

What about your employees?  How frequently do you personally mention their value to the operation, their efforts above and beyond the call of duty, their loyalty and attitude?  Do you express those feelings to them on a regular basis?  Too many agency owners are “A-Type” personalities who don’t necessarily require a lot of “attaboys”.  Your employees are different; they need to know that you value and appreciate them.  The payoff will be improved employee retention, higher productivity. and increased loyalty.

I recently attended an agency’s employee Christmas party.  It was a wonderful affair in an elegant setting.  But the food, drin,k and ambience did not take center stage.  
When the agency president spoke to the group, everyone expected the traditional “thanks for a great year” monologue.  Their expectations were wrong!  Instead, he looked around the room and then identified each and every employee by name, thanking them individually for a specific task that they had accomplished or an attitude they had conveyed.  That one short speech did more good than a year of hallway commendations or plaques.  You could literally see each employee take a gentle pride in an acknowledgement heard by all the other employees, as well as their significant others.  The employees felt valued and important.
Expressions of gratitude are critical to the overall success of your operation.  Don’t be a gratitude Scrooge; share the compliments and the thank-you’s openly and frequently.
On the other side of the equation, a future blog will focus on another magic word – “please.”  I haven’t been hearing that often in the business arena lately.  We all need to remember those magic words that our parents taught us: “please” and ‘”thank you.”