With the arrival of November, my thoughts turn to gratitude.
As the eldest in a family of ten children and the daughter of two hard working and very disciplined Irish immigrant parents, I was introduced to the importance of thank you at a very young age. It did not take long to learn that things generally worked out better for me when I used those two words. Over time, however, I came to understand that it was more than the words that helped produce positive outcomes in my life. It was gratitude.
Gratitude Gets Results
There is actually science behind this idea. Recently, researchers have begun to better understand the power of gratitude. Robert Emmons, author, and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is leading a research project, Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude, in partnership with the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley.
This three-year effort is intended to promote gratitude in schools, offices, and communities. Not so surprisingly, they’ve learned that gratitude produces:
- Better health and longer lives
- Increased joy, optimism, and happiness
- Longer marriages
- More generosity, compassion, and loyalty
- And stronger relationships and community
Can Gratitude Drive Business?
It seems to me the same thing should hold true with customers. Shouldn’t gratitude improve the customer experience and even the bottom line? When we express gratitude to our customers, we have an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with them, build trust and create an overall better brand interaction.
The Harvard Business Review suggests, “Go for gratitude and [customer] loyalty will follow. How does one create a sense of loyalty that is reciprocal, authentic, and emotional? The answer is to focus on fostering the emotional response that is most likely to drive loyal behavior—gratitude. By definition, gratitude is ‘a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.’ Note that gratitude is inherently reciprocal.”
Thank You Starts with a Great Customer Experience
So how do we express gratitude to customers and ultimately drive brand loyalty? There are of course the most overt mechanisms like customer appreciation events, writing thank you notes and even calling customers to say thanks. But probably the best way to let customers know they are appreciated is through the level of everyday service they receive when they interact with a brand in the first place. And this is where the wheels can fall off.
In our State of Customer Experience 2016 report, we see a gap between customer expectations for service and the effort customers have to put forth to get the help they need:
- 44% of consumers say they do not feel companies make it easy to contact them about a customer service issue
- 55% of consumers say they need to use two or more channels to reach a company before an issue is resolved
- And 21% of consumers never even receive a response when contacting a brand for service using social media
Meeting Customers at the Intersection of Thank You
So maybe the best way to express our gratitude to customers isn’t just after the fact with a heartfelt gesture, but in real time by meeting them on their channel of choice and working toward single-contact resolution of their issue. This will require companies to establish and maintain standards of customer service performance across all channels—phone, email, online chat, social media, web self-service, text message, mobile apps and, yes, even today’s less frequent written correspondence.
Meeting consumers at the intersection of thank you, where brands provide a consistently great experience across all channels and customers show their gratitude through sales and loyalty can be a competitive advantage.
For more on how to create a better and more profitable customer experience, I invite you to contact The Northridge Group.