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“Employees who don’t feel significant rarely make significant contributions.”

That quote is from Mark Sanborn who is an acknowledged authority, author and speaker on leadership and it follows on nicely from my last posting when I stated ‘Good employee experience = good customer experience’ and posed a couple of questions. Hopefully you’ve all answered and your answers are on a variety of postcards, wining their way through the machinery that is Royal Mail.

Postcards? Royal Mail? Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned? Well yes, it is – and no it isn’t. I prefer to think of it as ‘traditional’. Am I being serious? Yes, I am (although perhaps not about the postcards per se). It’s more of a conceptual thing and the concept is – wait for it – handwriting.

Think of the client who gets a birthday/anniversary/Christmas card or thank you note? Does it give them a better impression if the said card or note is addressed to them and signed by hand? Now, I’m not suggesting that you dump e-mail or word processors or dictation software but every now and again, isn’t handwriting so much more personal?

Can you imagine the impression if you (the boss) writes a handwritten ‘thank you’ note to someone who’s done a great job for the firm?

According to Bloomberg Business Week, CEO Doug Conant  sent 30,000 handwritten ‘Thank you’ notes to employees during the 10 years he ran Campbell Soup. Now I have no wish to be mercenary, but do you think he’d have done that if it didn’t work? Trust me on this – successful CEOs don’t keep doing something for 10 years if it doesn’t get results.

As with so many things, put yourself in the client’s or the employee’s shoes – how do you/would you feel if you got a handwritten thank you note from your adviser or your boss? Would your first thought be “silly old fool doesn’t know how to work the computer” or would it be “Wow!, Handwritten! Amazing!”?

What Doug Conant understood is what William James (perhaps America’s most renowned psychologist) said: “The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.” What we can add to that with the handwritten note is that its personal. Feelgood factor? A true ‘Spinal Tap’ 11.

So, a few tips. Start your new appreciation regime with the cleaner(s) and encourage them to sweep outside and clean up your front entrance as well as inside in your reception area. Learn from the housing market and ‘kerb appeal’; what’s the first thing your client/customer sees when they come to visit you? It’s the approach to your office and nothing will put clients off more than coming to a messy or dirty entrance and/or reception area. Leave the cleaner(s) a handwritten note thanking them for a good job – not once, but often.

Move swiftly on to your receptionist(s). He/she/they will see more people who interact with your company and hear more things about your company than you ever will so who is in the best position to make a good first impression? And who is in the best position to tell you what the word is amongst your clients? You need to keep reception onside. Dress reception with flowers and add a handwritten note “You do a great job on reception – hope the flowers brighten things up. Thanks!” (or similar) and sign it. Do it often.

Don’t stop there. Look after your backroom staff – appreciate them and make them feel wanted. If you do, they’ll be more willing to go the extra mile for you and that can result in better outcomes for your clients. If you encourage them they may well respond with ideas for streamlining processes or making some improvement that gives better results. Happy clients means more stable revenue and the opportunity for greater profit. On the other side of the coin, their discontent or dissatisfaction can wreak havoc with your business.

Simple gestures requiring only a little extra effort can make a big difference. Why not try it and see for yourself?

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