The Impact of Thank You

Thank you is relationship building; it’s respect; it lets the person, customer, and friend knows he or she is appreciated.

By Barbara Randi, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide

I took out my long-used, dog-eared Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary today to help me define the term, “thank you.” It yielded: “a polite expression of one’s gratitude.” Wanting to keep up with the times, I checked out Wikipedia, as well, which said, “an expression of gratitude.” The years seem not to have affected how the term is defined.

Still wanting to be “up” with those in the know, I next went to Urban Dictionary for the latest definition. Aside from a few comments not purposeful for this article, I also found the following: 1. An expression of gratitude used primarily as a formal, friendly, social obligation. 2. When used in its true form (not merely out of obligation), it is an expression of respect and appreciation to another soul (and simultaneously to all beings) for unconditional kindness that has been bestowed upon you.” This, I like.

Thank You Builds Relationships

When training on customer service, I often find the discussion inevitably turns to why we are impressed when a service representative thanks us for our business. How often do you hear a thank you when driving away from a fast food restaurant, walking away from a department store clerk, or after paying your bill at the grocery store? And if a thank you was offered, did it sound rehearsed, rote, a trained skill or was it sincere and heartfelt? Getting to the point, thank you is not expressed much these days, and if it is, it’s more dismissive in delivery. Terms such as “You’re welcome,” “You’re all set,” and “No problem” often are used in lieu of this expression of gratitude and are used as an easy way out—a lazy way of ending an exchange.

Thank you is recognizing a person for his or her thoughtfulness; it’s an acknowledgement of another being’s willingness to do good for us. It’s relationship building; it’s respect; it lets the person, customer, and friend knows he or she is appreciated. Most importantly, thank you must be sincere, warm, and personal. A pretend expression of gratitude easily will be detected and ruin the interaction. Insincerity comes across as dishonesty, and who wants to deal with a person or company that can’t be trusted? Thank you should be used when interacting with a customer in a sales situation, conveying that his or her business is important to us. Thank you should be used in a complaint-handling situation; a company does not always detect problems, and expressing gratitude to a customer for sharing his or her experience is noteworthy. Finally, thank you should be evoked when thoughts and ideas are shared with another human being. Thank you is etiquette; it’s basic manners.

Back to Basics

Thank you may not be a natural phrase for one to express. Let’s go back to the basics, phrases our parents taught and reinforced. Recall being admonished if you forgot “please” and “thank you” when asking auntie for a cookie? Growing older, our parents’ influence had less of an impact; instead influences came from outside as our peers took on that role. We learned to cut to the chase: “Hey, while you’re at it, get me some beer, too,” might be heard around the table. On the job, there is a line of professionalism that never should be crossed; cutting yourself off from manners may be cutting your own throat (or that of your employer).

3 Thank You Musts

Comments on Wikipedia list three situations when saying thank you is important: in person, over the phone, and in e-mail/texting situations. Regardless of the medium, thank you needs to be sincere and specific and demonstrate how the person’s actions have affected you or your business. If an expression of gratitude is extended in person, then good body language is imperative: Eye contact must be made; facing the person directly with open arms is not optional; and a good tone and a smile need to be chosen to demonstrate a welcoming manner. Above all, listen. If thank you is expressed over the phone or through an e-mail or text, then remember that tone has the greatest impact on the reader. Be mindful of how your tone translates over the phone or via the written word and be mindful of the words you choose. Maintain sincerity and always recognize the person being thanked; use his or her name. Thank you, in many cases, is the last impression left with an individual, and you want to make it a good impression. And after all, thank you is basic to customer service. To quote blogger Ryan Moody, “It’s the attitude of gratitude.”

Barbara Randi is a training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

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