The importance of saying thank you in business and beyond

By Sam Brake Guia November 4, 2017

Thank you! These two words carry with them a message which can do incredible things. They can repair a broken friendship, make someone’s day or even open the door to a long and prosperous business relationship. It is one of the first phrases we learn, not only in our mother tongue but also when immersed in a foreign culture.

When abroad, being able to thank someone in another language is almost as important as understanding how to say hello. Without it, we forgo a worldwide social norm of showing respect when someone provides a gift or service, no matter how big or small.

Yet in business, this message is so often forgotten or undervalued. For example, when was the last time you received or sent a handwritten letter or an email to say thank you to someone that graciously gave their time or business? Chances are it has been a while. The good news is it’s not too late and the positive impact can be surprising.

Money isn’t everything

In reality, nobody is likely to say no to a raise, of course, it is essentially extra money. What more could you want? Well, a nicer boss if you’re anything like the majority of respondents of this NBC study. According to the study, 70% of participants said they would forego a 10% raise for a kinder boss.

While our attention may gravitate to the more tangible benefits we see in a job, the importance of kindness, meaning and thoughtfulness are very much overlooked. According to Dan Ariely, a Behaviour Economist and Professor at MIT, having a sense of worth in your role is essential for employee morale, motivation, and overall happiness. He explains this in his TED talk called “What makes us feel good about our work?”.

In this talk, Dan discusses the importance of finding “meaning” in the work we do, and the importance of feeling that our job has an overall impact on a company’s ambition or contributions. When we take the time to say thank you, it is also an opportunity to point out what they have done well and why you are thanking them.

In an Inc article, professional training and coaching consultant Michael Allosso states, “You need to give feedback the right way to get positive results. Be truthful, specific, and positive. Don’t make praise overblown or out of context.”

In light of this, rather than a general “good job!” comment, you can call out specific details stating how well an employee handled a situation or dealt with a client. This not only shows you pay attention but also encourages this behavior for future engagements, while ultimately demonstrating their value within the business.

Thank you for your business

It’s not only employees that should see the benefits of thank yous, but also for clients and prospects. In a recent post on Reddit/r/Entrepreneur, one user posted a short story about their exponential growth all thanks to thank yous.

In the post titled “How “thank you” phone calls changed my business”, the user talks about their previous issues with their niche e-commerce business and their lack of understanding on how to remedy the problem. Essentially, customers would fill out an order but stop at the very last minute and not go ahead with it. This was a frequent occurrence and was hindering potential revenue. Eventually, the user decided to call the would-be customers to get a better understanding of what was wrong here.

In doing so they found many of the prospects they spoke with welcomed the call, as they felt a great sense of appreciation and connection. In other words, someone was willing to take time out of their day to listen to their thoughts and ask how they can make their experience better with the site. Fast forward and the user’s recovery rate went from 10% to 55%.

This incentivized the user to call all their customers, simply to engage and say thank you. As you might expect, the customers were very surprised and pleased to receive a call from a company they just purchased from, just to say thank you and make sure everything went smoothly. Especially from the “founder”, even though it is described as a relatively small operation, this still evoked a very positive response. Unsurprisingly, this had an incredibly positive impact on repeat business and business in general.

The user finished the post stating “Customer relationships I feel get overlooked. Myself included, I feel many of us get caught up in the email marketing, and FB retargeting, and other marketing automation tools, but we lose sight on the real face to face. Especially for small businesses whose brands are unknown, we need to go above and beyond and make a name for ourselves. Other bigger successful brands have just that…trusted brands. It allows customers to open their wallets more easily (or without even thinking) because they know they can trust their problem will be solved, or their passion will be served.”

Many users responded with positive comments, sharing their experiences with thank you notes to customers. One user even stated “One of the tactics we implemented on our first eCommerce store was writing a handwritten Thank You letter to every customer that purchased from us. The customers loved it, and they shared it on social.”

The impact of thank you on the brain

Showing gratitude might improve your employee’s happiness or business relationships, but it can ultimately lead to a much greater sense of happiness in all areas of your life.

More and more studies are demonstrating strong, empirical evidence that simple acts of gratitude, such as keeping a thank you diary, can encourage feelings of increased well-being and reduced depression. A study from Indiana University which used fMRIs to measure brain activity found these feelings induced by acts of gratitude would linger months after the actual act of gratitude.

Researchers recruited 43 participants undergoing counseling sessions to treat anxiety or depression. 22 of them were assigned to a gratitude intervention, while the remaining participants attended their counseling sessions as usual, representing the control group. Those in the gratitude group spent 20 minutes writing a letter in which they expressed their gratitude to the recipient, an hour in total (whether they chose to send these letters was up to them), for the first three sessions.

Three months later after their counseling had finished, all participants were asked to complete a “Pay It Forward” gratitude task in a fMRI machine. Participants were all “given” various amounts of money from fictional benefactors whose names and photos were presented on screen to the participants in order to encourage a sense of realism.

Participants were then told to that each benefactor had said that if the participant wanted to express their gratitude for the monetary gift, they could give some or all of the money to a named third party, also identified by photo and name, or to a recognized charity. Though the participants knew this was all an exercise, one of the transactions, later chosen at random, would actually go through. In other words, they would receive the money from the benefactor, minus the amount they chose to give to donate, assuming they chose to give any away.

Results indicated that, on average, the more money a participant gave away, and the stronger the sense of gratitude they reported feeling, the more activity they demonstrated in a range of areas within the brain’s frontal, parietal and occipital regions. Thus indicating a biological foundation of gratitude, which can ultimately affect our brain’s chemistry.

This is not an isolated case as there are many other studies which demonstrate the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. This is an important reminder that no matter what your motivation is for saying “thank you” more, we can all reap the benefits, no matter who is giving or receiving praise.

If you have been inspired to say show more gratitude or simply say thank you to someone who deserves it, then here is a list of innovating ideas. Alternatively, it is as simple as taking a moment just to say the words “Thank you”. It costs nothing yet it carries with it a priceless value, encouraging happiness, respect and, overall, a great sense of well being. Therefore, it only seems appropriate to end this article with a thank you for taking the time to read this.