How You Respond to a Thank You Matters

by Brad Harmon on July 15, 2010 in Entrepreneurs

How You Respond to Thank You Matters | marketplace christianity

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/sjlocke

How do your employees respond when a customer says thank you?  Do you have a policy in place for how they are to respond?  I live in the South, the Bible Belt, deep in the heart of Texas.  There’s just something about the culture of the South that makes everyone seem polite and friendly.

After living here for 25 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a corporate policy that dictates how their employees must respond when a customer says thank you.  Perhaps, we just take it for granted that our employees will be polite in return.

While writing posts for Chick-Fil-A Week here at The Christian Entrepreneur, I kept running across their corporate policy for responding to a thank you.  Truett Cathy loves to talk about how this policy makes his company different from his competitors.

Isn’t This Much Ado About Nothing?

A smile comes across his face as he talks about receiving letters from customers sharing with him how they were taken aback with how his employees responded to their thank you.  I have to admit that my inner skeptic was screaming at me as I listened to him go on about this policy.

Does it really matter what words I use as long as it’s a polite and sincere response?  Then that other voice started to speak up. You know the one?  It’s the one you hear when your own advice is being thrown back at you.

The Power of the Spoken Word

Words have incredible power.  They can inspire us to act in great ways, or they can wear us down until we lay paralyzed in our own self-doubt.  Studies have been conducted, movements have formed, and books have been written ad nauseum about the power of positive thinking and verbalizing it in our lives.

Maybe Truett Cathy is on to something?  If words have such power, is it so crazy to think that the ones we chose to use in response to a thank make a difference?

“My Pleasure” – The Chick-Fil-A Way

Chick-Fil-A employees are taught to respond to a customer’s thank you by saying, “My pleasure.”  Is there magic in this phrase?  Let’s look at it from both sides.

What the Customer Hears

The word pleasure jumps out at me.  It conveys the attitude of the employee towards me.  I’m not an obstacle, an annoyance, or just another task for them to check off their list before they can go home.  They are glad that I am there.

Not only are they glad that I am there, but serving me actually brought them joy.  That makes me feel good.  Who doesn’t like to bring joy into someone’s day?

What the Employee Thinks

If the pleasure is mine, then I must have the power to choose how I feel about doing my job.  If I’m having a bad day, then repeating this phrase over and over again will remind me that I have the power to affect how I feel about my day.

The phrase also means that there must be joy in my work if it’s my pleasure.  Customers cease to be a source of frustration for me.  Instead, each one provides me with another opportunity to experience this joy.

Caution: Our Memes are Running Wild

I know, this doesn’t sound very much like your employees (you hired them, right?), but Chick-Fil-A’s unique corporate culture attracts this type of person to work for them.  They’ve created their own set of memes and encouraged them to run free throughout their organization.  We know how contagious memes can be, so creating your own is a smart idea.

It’s not hard to imagine someone talking themselves into a bad day, or into providing horrible customer service.  Why then,  is it such a foreign idea that the same person can talk themselves into a good day, or providing a positive customer service experience?

What Other Response Packs the Same Punch?

Of course, all of this requires some sense of sincerity on the part of the employee and the company; however, what other response creates these positive memes?

  • You’re welcome.” It’s a nice phrase that’s inviting to the customer, but doesn’t make the customer the cause for someone’s joy.
  • Don’t mention it.” While trying to downplay the effort on the employee’s part, this just trivializes the experience for both the customer and the employee.
  • No problem.” This doesn’t evoke a happy or positive feeling.  In fact, it almost implies you were expecting the customer to be a problem.

See what I mean?  They just don’t measure up to “my pleasure,” do they?

It Turns Out Truett Cathy is Right

It looks like my inner critic ran off to sulk in some corner awaiting his next opportunity to pop up, but he certainly seems to be wrong about this one.  My apologies, Mr. Cathy.

So how does your company respond to your customer’s thank you?  Are you convinced that the words we use matter?  What do the above responses evoke in you as a customer, an employee, or an entrepreneur?

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