By Sid Chadwick
“If you think you can’t afford ongoing education and training, you probably don’t realize you’re already paying for it.”……Allie Hutchison, Sr., President, Hutchison-Allgood Printing Co.
My Adm. Asst. had just asked for a corporate “Thank You Card.” A long-term retired military officer and friend, working for charitable organizations in Alexandria, VA, had spent the better part of an hour guiding my Assistant on where to go for: (a) “How to write a successful Grant request”, and (b) “Where to find Grant money for our project.”
When did you last (ever…?) see a Sales Rep - or an Inside Sales Rep - or a CSR – write a “Thank You Note” - to a customer - or a supplier?
Does any of the following sound familiar?
- I wouldn’t know what to say…
- My handwriting isn’t good...
- We don’t have any “Thank You Cards” here…do we…?
- Do I have to pay for the stamp…?
- I don’t have time for that…
- Can’t I just send an email…
- Isn’t that kind of corny…old-fashioned…?
- People don’t do that anymore…
When a deserving person receives a “Thank You Card,” professional coaches tell us the recipient tends to save it…placing it in a private folder, filed away in a private drawer. On a day when bad news has arrived, or nothing much has gone right, they privately pull out that folder, and read those two to five or more cards – to remind them that they’re a decent person –and this is just not a good day.
At a client in Texas some years back, a disruption in their long-term senior management ranks - sent their front-line 13 CSR’s into emotional shell shock.
The investment group who had bought into the company, who had to release the senior manager, were suddenly running scared. They had little credibility with old-guard employees. The investment group was seen as “the enemy.”
Their new CFO, whom I had known in a previous company and project, asked me to come in and work some magic, to stabilize and refocus this critical department.
As one of several steps to “break the department’s paralysis,” I asked their CFO if they had any corporate “Thank You Cards”.
At first he said, “No”. Then he rethought the question, and went around the hallway corner, returning with a huge box of “Corporate Thank You Cards” – and a sheepish grin, saying, “They were buried in a closet under the stairway – I’m told no one ever uses them...”
In our first group discussion, we began brainstorming opportunities to send a customer or a supplier Rep – a “Thank You Card,” and options of “What to say.”
The department agreed, after spirited discussion, that all 13 of them could, and would – send two “Thank You Cards” – every week.
I promised them there would be wonderful surprises. (It was also a test of who I was, and what I represented.)
When I returned two weeks later on my next visit, stories began to tumble my way…you could practically taste their excitement - to share their stories and emotions – of what they were making happen, as they heard:
- Several customers called them on receiving “Thank You Notes,” increasing their order quantities.
- Numerous customers said they had never received a “Thank You Card.”
- Several customers called, and added a new item to their previous order.
- Numerous customers, for the first time in memory, paid the quoted price – no negotiating down.
- A few customers offered introductions – to other departments and divisions.
Next evolutionary steps:
- Track and publicly record each week’s number of “Thank You Cards” mailed.
- Record revenues this month compared to last year’s same month.
- Get those CSR’s started - proactively calling customers – never before expected, requested, trained - recorded - in the department.
Writing those powerful “Thank You Cards,” proactively calling customers, and recording “the numbers” every week and month on a board in their department - became a source of frequent celebration and accomplishment – that they owned…!.
When the summer quarter was over, revenues had grown by just over 10% over the previous year, rather than decreased.
There was no more waiting - for their phones to ring…!
(Note: The investment group who had asked me to come in I don’t think ever fully realized the potential change in the value of their investment that had been created. There was no one assigned to insist (and celebrate) that those weekly and monthly activities and numbers were to be maintained, after my assignment concluded.)
“One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”………..Lucille Ball