If you’re a repeat customer – and who isn’t? – then a well-written “thank you” note is more than the polite thing to do when you like a product. It can also be a means to preferential service the next time you visit.
Why? Because your missive could end up in an employee’s personnel file, or your own file if you’re a very frequent customer. Other employees could see the note, and based on what you’ve written, you could have a very different, and probably better, service experience.
I won’t argue the details, like whether you should write it by hand or not, because at the end of the day, a thank-you note is a thank-you note.
But suffice it to say that if you have a good experience, you should consider doing something about it.
There’s another reason why you should recognize a job well done, beyond the likelihood that you’ll be recognized for it. And that is that almost no one does it, and when they do it, they don’t do it well. People love to complain. But praise is rare, sadly.
So how do you do it?
1. Send it to the employee; copy the boss
If someone delivered great service, send the thank-you directly to that person with a copy to the boss – not the other way around.
Think about it. Who are you saying “thank you” to? The supervisor? But that person didn’t deliver the superior customer service. Still, it’s important that the boss know you’re recognizing the employee.
2. Choose your medium carefully
An email letter can convey your gratitude quickly, but a hand-written letter signed by you can appear more personal.
If you’re dealing with a big business, go the email route. For smaller companies, where a letter like yours can be pinned to the bulletin board in the break room and read by everyone, go for the personal touch.
If the company is hip to social media, you might try an online video. Here’s an example from a woman who liked the service she got at a Toyota dealership.
3. Keep it tight
No one has the time to read a two-page letter about great service. But two paragraphs? Absolutely.
You should be able to say everything in less than 300 words, including the following points: who you are, what you mean to the company (in terms of annual business), what happened, how a specific employee fixed the problem, and how it makes you feel about the company in general. If the letter is good enough, it will end up on the company’s site, like these customer testimonials from an online fur store.
4. Be as specific as possible.
An effective thank-you letter is precise – what, exactly, did the employee do that compelled you to write the letter? It wasn’t just her delightful smile and attentive nature that made you put pen to paper, was it? That kind of exactness may not mean anything to you, but it means everything to the employees, because they’ll be rewarded for their behavior. And you, in turn, could become everyone’s favorite customer.
Saying “thank you” may be more important than complaining about a product. Not because you’ll be treated better – although you could – and not because it could help the employee (it could, too). Do it because encouraging good service will reinforce the behavior company-wide, which could lead to a better customer experience for everyone.
Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.