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The power of thank you

Nov 19 2012 07:07 *Colette Symanowitz

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SUE (not her real name) was a hardworking PA for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She was the backbone who helped the CEO to shine. Sue worked late almost every night and was often the first to come into the office in the morning.
 
But despite having been the CEO’s PA for a number of years, her efforts often went unnoticed and unthanked. The final blow came when she gave him a birthday present. She had spent her Saturday finding the ideal gift and wrapping it in his favourite colours. She left it on his desk while he was out.

Later she saw him packing the gift away, so she knew he’d received it. But he didn’t even say thank you.

Sue resigned the next day. Her final words were: “All I wanted was for him to say thank you, to show some appreciation for my hard work. But he didn’t bother. He was too important.”

Many studies have recognised the power of thank you. When you say thank you to your customers they spend more, they return less, they tell their friends about your company and your service delivery. In the workplace "thank yous" boost employee productivity.

Similarly, vendors go the extra mile, give bigger discounts, extend credit and deliver on time. This drives profit, margin and success. In the words of Tony Robbins: “Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.”

Despite this, when was the last time you received a thank-you message from someone you helped or connected with? You probably can’t remember. That’s because nobody sends them any more. For most people today, thank you notes are no longer a priority like they were for our parents’ generation.

As kids, virtually all of us were taught that when someone does or gives something, we always say thank you. And yet today, these two powerful words seem to have become outdated.

By not saying thank you, be it face-to-face, by email, in a tweet or a handwritten note, we’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to make a powerful impression and to stand out from the crowd.

Why does such a simple act make such an impact?

1. Thank you says we’re appreciated. Do you have a Sue in your life that you take for granted? They could be the cleaning staff who empty the dustbin in your office every day, or the canteen workers who make your cappuccino exactly the way you like it.

A thank you says that we are valued and appreciated. Not saying thank you suggests that we are taken for granted.

It doesn’t take much effort to say thank you. Yet it can make all the difference in a business or personal relationship.

In the words of bestselling American author Jim Stovall: “You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”

2. So few people send thank you notes that you’ll stand out if you do. Let’s say you interviewed two very similar job applicants. If one sent a thank you message after the interview, while the other didn’t, which one would stand out more?

A thank you note just gives you the edge. So much so that, according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com:

• Nearly 15% of hiring managers would reject a job candidate who didn’t send a thank you letter after the interview, and

• 32% said they might still consider the thankless applicant but their opinion of him or her would lessen.

And yet despite this, most people don’t send thank you notes after job interviews or meetings. As an entrepreneur I’m always looking for the opportunity, and the thank you note is exactly that. If you make the effort to send a thank you message when your competitors don’t, you will outshine them.

It’s that simple.

3. Thank you shows courtesy and respect. Sadly, in our hectic and often impolite world, we simply don’t acknowledge each other’s time, efforts and commitments any more. After an interview or meeting, sending a thank you note tells your interviewer or potential clients that you appreciate that they took the time and effort to meet with you.

4. The personal touch. Technology has taken over our lives and mass messaging has become the norm. So people are increasingly starved for the personal touches like handwritten notes or thank you cards.

5. Thank you notes will help them remember you. After a job interview, send thank you notes immediately to each person you’ve interacted with in the interview process. This strengthens the impression you’ve made in the interview and keeps you top of mind, making it easy for them to decide on you.

6. Want better word of mouth marketing? Try saying thank you. Effective online word-of-mouth marketing centres on identifying and nurturing your most loyal brand evangelists.

This is according to Eileen Bernardo, PR/communication manager at social media intelligence and management company Viralheat. Even small acts such as saying thank you for their support can pay big returns if you target the right people, the influencers, Bernardo clarifies.

“If they are already talking about you often, it’s likely they will publicly support the brand if you reach out to them personally with a simple gesture of gratitude like a thank you note or a discount voucher for their next purchase,” she writes.

7. A thank you note allows you to recap points made during the interview or meeting. Have you ever left an interview wishing you’d more strongly stressed a certain skill or experience that the employer was looking for?

A thank you note gives you the chance to do exactly that. After thanking them, you can touch again upon the key points you made. Use a similar strategy to expand upon or clarify any responses that were weak or shaky.

8. A thank you note lets you raise forgotten points. After a meeting or interview, as you walk to your car, have you ever thought of a great point that you forgot to make face-to-face? Frustrating? Definitely.

You can address this problem to some extent in your thank you message by saying something such as: “After our discussion, I realised I’d forgotten to mention that …”

Saying thank you isn’t hard or time consuming. Make sure to follow through, ideally the same day as your meeting or interview. A simple thank you can have a tremendous impact – potentially even make the difference between the job or bid going to you or to your competitor.

*Colette Symanowitz is Founder/MD of www.MBAconnect.net, a social network exclusively for MBAs from all business schools in South Africa and worldwide.

For more go to finweek.com or follow Finweek on Twitter.

*Share your experience of setting up your own business, or simply ask a question. Our business panel can put you on the right path.


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