The Power of “Thank You”

I recently finished reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s “The Thank You Economy,” and was inspired by his words surrounding the power of the customer experience and why it is so important to keep engaged throughout a customer’s entire experience. I like to think that we follow many of the suggestions Gary makes in the book, but I know we’ve got some work to do in order to get to where I’d like to be.

One of the most subtle - and potent - examples of the power of the "thank you" I've experienced recently was not something that we did as a company, but something that I received from a vendor that provides a service to us.

In order to manage our projects, customer contacts and internal documents and processes, we use 37 Signals' product suite, which includes the excellent Basecamp product and a number of other office management tools. Recently we found ourselves bumping up against one of the limitations of the package that we were using, so we made the decision to upgrade.

Really, the process was simple and we didn’t think much of it - we knew that we needed to do it in order to continue to grow and run more projects, so it was a natural fit for us. No sales effort was needed - we were happily entrenched in 37 Signals’ world, and we didn’t even plan on leaving.

Days later, I received a handwritten thank you letter from the 37 Signals team.

Becoming a “Likable” Company

They didn’t need to send the card. I would have happily continued using the product. The revenue, also, was likely minor in the world of 37 Signals, which services both small and VERY large companies in their client list. But it humanized the folks at 37 Signals for me - it wasn’t just another company anymore - and helped me to understand that they appreciated my business.

It may sound silly, but making a customer feel appreciated can go a long way. As a result of this simple message, I’m less likely to downgrade or move to another company because the customer experience can’t be measured by price alone.

Take a look at Apple products. Steve Jobs was a master at identifying the importance of the customer experience, from opening a box to starting up a machine to their retail stores. It’s why people pay a premium for Apple products, and why many people who tend to use an Apple product for the first time will stick with it for the long term. Apple tries to make sure people will like their experience with every product that rolls out their door.

It’s About People, Not Businesses

In his book, Gary Vaynerchuk explains that the customer experience is going to rule people’s buying decisions in the next decade. The mom and pop stores of yesteryear, though they were all about knowing their customer, died because they could not compete with the prices of the big box stores that opened in their neighborhoods. However, we’re now seeing that companies with an online presence are invading on that big box turf, because they can provide both:

  1. A solid customer service experience with cheap (or free) online tools
  2. A price that's competitive (or sometimes cheaper!) than their big box counterparts

Look no farther than Zappos, Amazon, or Etsy to see this kind of personal service in action. These stores might have to deal with warehousing and inventory management, but they don't have to deal with the overhead associated with a brick and mortar store. They can focus that energy on their customers.

I don't think this means that all big box stores are going to go, nor do I think shopping is going to be all online 20 years from now. However, I do think the customer experience is going to be increasingly important in defining which stores make it and which don't, and a symbiosis of sorts will develop between the two.

Online stores will always need some kind of brick-and-mortar model for those people that like to "try before they buy," even if their purchase ends up being online. Does that mean that maybe we'll see Amazon stores in the future? Hey - I never thought I would see an Apple store in my lifetime, but now that they're ubiquitous it seems like a natural fit.

What was your best or worst customer experience, and does it align with what I've described here? And please, let us know about your experience with Avelient if you've had one - and how we could help make it better!

Written by Mariano Di Fabio on March 13th, 2012

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