Customer Service, Generous, Social Networking, Uncategorized

Say Thank You – It’s the Best Advice I’ve Received

Thank you for reading this post – really!

When I started at Gist I had been on the job for only a few weeks when I answered a question from Brad Feld, one of our key investors. It must have been late at night and I was a little curt in my reply, and Brad shared a piece of advice with me that has improved every email and customer contact I’ve had since that evening.

Whenever you write an email, Brad wrote, “start by thanking the person who sent it.”

I was mortified. Not only had I screwed up by replying without thinking, but I had also said the wrong thing to a really important customer. As it turns out, this piece of advice was the single most important takeaway that I had from my 18 months at Gist and helped me to be much more successful in building a strong Customer Experience for anyone who encountered me or the company’s brand online.

There are 3 key points about thanking a person who sends you a question (even and especially if they are mad) that I’ve gleaned from Brad’s advice – I’m sharing them here to prevent other people from making the same mistake I did (you can feel free to make a different one):

  1. Thank the Person for Writing. As Brad pointed out, the first thing anyone wants to know when they send in a question is that you read their email. And thanking them can go a long way towards building a positive relationship with this person. Even if you need to give them news they don’t want to hear.
  2. Restate the problem to demonstrate to the customer that you did more than just thank them. In writing out your paraphrase of the problem, you can either help to lower the emotional charge of the situation and/or start to think about how to solve it (even if you don’t know how you’re going to do it just yet.
  3. And finally, let the customer know what’s next. If you know what’s going to happen, state it; and if you don’t know, make a plan that will give the customer some idea of when she will hear from you next.

I think about Brad’s advice often (thanks, Brad), and it’s helped me to be more responsive with all kinds of customers, and especially those who email me.

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Customer Service, Product Thoughts, Social Networking

A simple “Thank You” speaks volumes

Thank you for reading this piece (but back to that in a moment.)

Recently, I received valuable advice from a colleague. It wasn’t a business plan for a blockbuster company, a secret formula to synthesize gold from base elements, or a patentable insight. What he said was, “always say thank you when you get feedback.” I didn’t think about it all that much at the moment, except to think that I was grateful for the heartfelt advice.

The amazing thing about the advice to thank people for feedback is how easy it is to apply, and what great results it provides.  You might think that people are used to hearing this as an almost automatic response or a token response and don’t notice, but they most definitely do notice.  What we more often notice is the absence of the acknowledgement (ask anyone who lives in California the difference between shopping in the supermarket and being talked to by friendly staff there and in a similar store on the East Coast and you’ll get the idea).  So I’m trying to put the advice into practice.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that some people are actually startled to be spoken to directly. The checker at the supermarket and the clerk at the gas station are used to being in transactional interactions, rather than conversations, from many customers.

So What Can We Do Differently to Show Others They Matter?

Start with a personalized version of Hello.Chris Brogan’s speech at Web 2.0 this week reinforces this idea, suggesting that when we greet people we should say “I see you”, instead of “hello”, indicating that we are acknowledging the person’s presence and not simply regurgitating a rote response of recognition.  And end with Thank You.  Or in my case, perhaps I’ll start with Thank you from now on.