Making “Thank You” a Habit


I originally wrote this for the Contactually Blog here, but I’m reposting this to my own blog.

Our first and foremost core value is focus on the user.

That’s mainly of course manifested in the product we sell and the always-be-helpful mantra of our customer-facing teams. But we know that we needed this a bit more baked into the DNA of the company than what we produce.

First Attempts

We’ve iterated with a whole lot of things. We’ve shown up to a user’s office with balloons and a big fake check. We’ve mailed out hundreds of sunglasses and stickers. We’ve sent mariachi bands, cupcakes, and who knows what else to offices. From time to time someone would walk around recording a short video for someone. We had a “Surprise and Delight” team that met to figure out what to do, with the budget to do it.

However, why didn’t that work? Well, it’s not like any of those efforts failed, but what we failed to do is to do it consistently.

When you think about the habit cycle:

We didn’t have a cue — these were all one-off actions.

Even finding time for the committee to meet for an hour or two per month, that was a lot of work.
Routine — The harder the routine, the greater the chance that this could fall apart. And do you know how much work it is to schedule a mariachi band to show up at someone’s office halfway across the country without them knowing?!

The reward was pretty consistent — Well, for us. Since the habit cycle relies on the operator of the cycle to be the recipient of the reward, doing the act seemed to have a constant level of satisfaction, irregardless of the amount of effort.

Learning from others

Maybe we were biting off more than we can chew?

I first heard about the concept of Thank You cards in SaaS from the folks at Wufoo. At the time, it was so strange.

We receive a handful of thank you cards a month.

Vendors, interviewees, etc. One time I was handed a thank-you note as I finished up a panel discussion — she wrote it right as she was listening to me!
Maybe it was time to listen to best practices?

Habit

As we preach with our users, habit is the thing that separates success from failure.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

So now we make a very simple ask of all of our employees. After our full team meetings on Friday afternoons (4PM, every Friday, because your mind is likely already moved off your current tasking), we make a simple request. Anyone who doesn’t have to run right out of the office or have a 5 PM call, can sit down with us for 15 minutes and write thank you cards to customers.

We’re pretty confident that we’re moving well into the habit zone — here’s why:

Cue: Yep, it’s immediately after our regularly scheduled meeting. As B.J. Fogg speaks about in his Tiny Habits program — it’s best to connect a habit you want with a routine you already have.

Routine: It takes about 5 minutes to look up a customer’s address and write out a card. And to further enhance the routine, we all do it together sitting around a table, so it’s a social event.

Reward: Check — we actually find even the act of pulling up a user’s company website establishes just a bit more of a connection with that user. And that’s empathy is what we want.

How do you surprise and delight your customers? What ways do you say thank you? Hopefully, you’ll be able to take some of our techniques into your company!

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