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Want Long Term Customers? Start with Saying Thanks -- the Right Way

When you land a new customer, what is your ultimate goal? To satisfy, delight, exceed expectations, create the "wow factor"...? Absolutely -- but this is your ultimate goal:
Turn a new customer into a long term customer. Long term customers are the revenue gift that keeps on giving.
That little bit of business alchemy starts with saying thanks -- the right way, using the right tool:

Email. Autoresponder-style thank you emails are one step above worthless. (Do you open any emails that sniff of automatic generation? Me neither.) In fact sending a formulaic, template-based thank you email may be worse than sending nothing at all because it establishes an air of impersonality. Impersonal is the kiss of death to a long term customer relationship.

Email thank yous work best if you don't need a response, providing complete contact information, or passing on information useful to the customer. For example:

  • "Thanks... here is my complete contact information. Contact me any time...."
  • "Thanks... and here's a link to the article/website/resource we talked about..."
  • "Thanks... as promised, attached is our resource guide..."
Always customize the subject line to make sure a thank you email is opened. "Thanks from ACME Consulting" is like kryptonite to a potential Super Customer. "Link to the great resource we discussed..." is personal and specific. Save the thank you message for the body of the email.

Email tip: Never try to generate additional sales with a thank you email. How sincere will, "Thanks... now buy some more stuff!" come across? Thank you emails should always provide, never request.

Phone. Saying thanks by phone can be tricky: On the one hand a phone call is personal, sincere, and furthers a connection; on the other hand a phone call can be an unwelcome and awkward interruption.

In most situations, a phone call is the least preferred way to say thanks. Imagine this conversation:

You: "Hi John, this is Jeff... I just wanted to say thanks again for choosing us."

Customer: "You're welcome."

You: "Um... so hey, like I said thanks again and have a great day!"

Awkward much? Unless you like uncomfortable pauses, a thank you phone call must have a secondary purpose, like a needed response. For example:

  • "Thanks... I'm calling to set up an appointment to (provide the service you sold)..."
  • "Thanks... I wanted to make sure everything went well the other day..."
  • "Thanks... I wanted to follow up to get the information that wasn't available when we met..."
Stay brief, to the point, and above all be sincere. And don't try to sell after the sale! (Say thanks the right way and you'll live to sell another day.)

Phone tip: If you must say thanks by phone, consider calling after business hours and leaving a message. Your call is less likely to be seen as an interruption and avoids the possibility of any "just called to say thanks" awkwardness.

Handwritten note. Perfect when you want your message to be read, don't need a response, and wish to convey sincerity. Many people delete emails unseen; everyone opens "real" mail. Just make sure you include a personal detail so the note doesn't feel generic:

  • "Thanks... we especially look forward to working with your new facility in..."
  • "Thanks... I look forward to seeing you at the game next week..."
  • "Thanks... I'll be in (your city) again in three weeks and hope to catch up with you in person then..."
Handwritten note tip: Don't reach too hard for a personal detail. Including, "Say hi to (your wife) and your kids..." sounds incredibly insincere if you've never met the customer's family. "Personal" doesn't have to mean non-work; "personal" can be specific to the customer's business.

Use above as overall guidelines, and whenever possible tailor how you communicate your appreciation to the preferences of your customer. Some may enjoy and even be reassured by consistent phone calls; others see a phone as the communication mode of last resort.

Creating a long term customer is based on knowing your customer, so start by knowing how they wish to communicate so you can say thank you the right way -- their way.


Photo courtesy flickr user Orin Zebest, CC 2.0
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