From a young age we are groomed to strive for more, never to settle for what we have. In no sphere of life is this truer than business. Companies fall into a panic at the merest sign of slowing growth. As a consequence, we have created workplaces where too much emphasis is placed on addressing negatives, and not enough on acknowledging positives.
That is where gratitude comes in.
Gratitude teaches us to shift our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have. In business, being grateful for your staff and customers pays off, particularly when it comes to customer appreciation efforts.
Here’s how to make gratitude a pillar of your customer appreciation strategy.
The line between gratitude and appreciation is often blurred, and although there are similarities, there are also important differences.
Researchers have defined appreciation as “the act of acknowledging the goodness in life.” This means seeing the positives in events, experiences, or in other people — customers, in this case.
When it comes to business, this usually involves building out customer appreciation strategies. The reality is though, customer appreciation tactics are often implemented purely to increase profits, rather than cultivate better relationships based on unconditional gratitude. This woefully underappreciates the scope of what true gratitude has to offer, both emotionally and from a business standpoint.
“[True gratitude] recognizes how the positive things in our lives — like a success at work—are often due to forces outside of ourselves, particularly the efforts of other people.”
|Examples of Gratitude||Examples of Customer Appreciation|
|Keeping in touch regularly, personalizing communications as conversation advances, including tailored deals and offers as they come up.||Yearly generic deals and offers.|
|$10 sent on birthday to be used with a variety of different stores to get something customer truly wants.||Spend $100 get $5 off coupon as a reward for loyalty.|
|Implementing changes to processes based on customer feedback and thanking them for their input.||Receive $5 voucher for completing feedback form.|
But there is so much more to it than that.
The hypothalamus, which controls our ‘reward’ neurotransmitter dopamine, is heavily affected by feelings of gratitude. This means by practicing gratitude, you positively affect physical, emotional and psychological well-being — decreasing stress and increasing job satisfaction. Happy, healthier staff means less absence and better performance.
Business is dependent on relationships, be that with customers, colleagues, or partners. Robert Emmons, perhaps the world’s leading gratitude expert, views gratitude as an emotion that helps to foster and strengthen relationships “because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” This has clear implications, both in terms of developing customer loyalty, but also forming better business relationships between colleagues and building a more cohesive workforce.
A culture of gratitude helps you nurture qualities within your workforce that provide better customer service, improve overall customer experience, deliver genuine customer appreciation efforts, and form a happy workforce. Good news indeed when you consider that happy companies see better customer loyalty, employee productivity, and profitability, as well as lower levels of staff turnover.
The really good news is, being grateful in business is something we can all work on, and these efforts will power more authentic customer appreciation. Here are some ideas:
Organizations tend to limit feedback to developmental needs, leaving staff unaware of their progress. Focus on acknowledging positive contributions to nurture a gratitude mindset. Appreciative enquiry takes this further, encouraging organizational change through identifying, emphasizing and doing more of what is already working.
Journaling has been shown to be incredibly effective in fostering gratitude. One study even showed people keeping gratitude journals had greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to groups journaling about things that annoyed them, or reasons why they were better off than others. Journaling can be incorporated into business activities by asking people to reflect back on the week and write down five things they are grateful or thankful for. Integrating this into team meetings means everybody engages in it together at a set time, increasing the likelihood of establishing it as an all important habit.
This is particularly useful as it bridges the gap between appreciation and gratitude, acting as both a form of appreciation and reinforcing a sense of gratitude in the sender. A win-win. As a customer appreciation effort, it helps to nurture relationships by serving to explicitly highlight the positive impact customers have had on the business, making them feel good. But the power of hand-writing thank you notes is such that the person writing it experiences similar feel-good benefits. To get the most out of it, if you can, deliver it in person.
You may well have heard of customer appreciation day, but this only comes once a year. With a culture of gratitude in place, everyday is a customer appreciation day. Here’s a few ideas how to show customer appreciation in a more authentic manner:
Nothing makes a customer feel unappreciated like being ignored. Buying decisions are hugely dependent on how customers feel they are treated. Maintaining regular contact helps show customers they are important to you. This is especially effective if your correspondence is highly personalized. Check in to see how it’s going, if there is anything customers need help with.
Perhaps it could be a gift card, one of your products, or even something completely unrelated to your company. Giving a gift ‘just because’ shows appreciation without an obvious attempt to get something in return, emphasizing your authenticity. There is no hidden agenda. Find out more about how to choose appreciation gifts for customers here.
Appreciation can come from simply listening to your customers feedback and thanking them for it. Your customers see your company from a perspective you never could. This makes their feedback incredibly valuable. When you take their thoughts on board, this builds trust and creates loyalty, and shows you value what they think.
Happy businesses are not only better places to work, but they are also more successful too. By adopting these approaches, you can start to create a culture of genuine gratitude and encourage authentic customer appreciation through a happier workforce. That is the real value of gratitude.
Benedict Clark is a psychologist and writer, having previously spent 8 years in the digital marketing industry. With a master's degree in Business and Occupational Psychology from Kingston University, he writes about the interplay between customer experience and psychology for Acquire.