‘Thank You’! The two most important ‘Customer Experience’ words of all


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‘Thank You’. Two little words. Two words containing a total of eight letters. As a parent you spend most of your life teaching your children to use the words regularly. As a child, you are constantly reminded of their importance. It is unlikely you have ever looked up the dictionary definition of ‘thank you’ – so I have done so for you – you can thank me later:

1. (adjective)

expressing one’s gratitude or thanks: a thank-you note.

an expression of thanks, as by saying “thank you”: I never got so much as a thank-you for helping him.

You probably did not need to be told something you already knew (hence you may not want to thank me for sharing this with you). So why am I taking the time to talk about words that you possibly; probably; almost certainly use on a daily basis? Let me explain.

People who know me well know that I am not a fan of the TV programme ‘Undercover Boss’. As predictable as an episode of ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’, I am always irritated by the naivety of senior business leaders at failing to be aware of what is happening in their own organisations. I refuse to believe that going ‘undercover’ on TV is the right way to finally understand, discover or recognise what colleagues and customers experience with your company and quite frankly I never will. However, despite the sour taste the programme leaves in my mouth, I find it fascinating to observe. Having watched a UK episode that I recorded last week, I am compelled to write this post. I want to spend the next few minutes writing about the significance of the words ‘thank you’ – in general, but especially in the world of Customer Experience. I hope you can find the time to read them (thank you in advance if you can).
The Undercover Boss episode in question followed YMCA England’s Director of HR, Bims Alalade. Bims writes passionately on the YMCA website about the experience – she says it is an experience that will stay with her ‘forever’. You can read her thoughts here. In case you do not know, YMCA is a charitable organisation. It is actually the largest and oldest youth charity in the world. Their work is vitally important in providing predominantly young people with a safe place to stay; a fresh start; guidance and support; and facilities to get active. The YMCA relies on full-time staff and a large number of volunteers to keep all of their services running to ‘very high standards’.
Undercover Boss - Bims Alalade

Undercover Boss – Bims Alalade

Unusually for Undercover Boss, I was emotionally moved by this episode. Unlike Bims, I do not (and never have) worked for the YMCA. I did not know or appreciate the amazing things their staff and volunteers do. From cleaning youth hostels for sometimes rude and offensive residents, to providing nightly medical help in city centres, Bims was taken by the passion, pride and motivation of the people working for her organisation. Bims should not have been surprised – she should have already known. Whilst I am comforted by the fact that she now does, I find it astonishing that as the Director of HR, it took a TV programme to open her eyes to the efforts of her own people.
The predictability of the programme leads to the staff subjected to the ‘undercover antics’ being ‘summoned to head office’. Once there, they meet with the real persona – the boss. Cue shock and dismay, humble acknowledgement of the issues from the boss, followed by a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the member of staff concerned. I am always left wondering what the other hundreds and thousands of employees of the organisations that have participated in the programme are left feeling. Why was I not chosen? Where is my free, all expenses paid holiday to Barbados?
This is where those two words come in – ‘thank you’. What moved the employees and volunteers who participated in this episode of Undercover Boss was the fact that someone was saying ‘thank you’. A senior leader was acknowledging and recognising the work that they do. People are actually quite simple – as children, we usually respond rather well when our parents give us positive feedback. We are no different as adults. The two simple words with a total of eight letters used honestly and often are a good way of keeping employees feeling motivated and valued.
How many bosses do you know that do not say thank you? How many bosses have you worked for that rarely thanked you for anything? I have often written about the importance of acknowledgement and recognition of people as a key component for a customer centric organisation. Saying thank you goes a very long way – and best of all, it costs you absolutely nothing. I believe that ‘thank you’ are the two most important Customer Experience words of all. If your organisational culture is one where it is the norm to appreciate your people and thank them regularly, it is very likely that your customers will feel appreciated as well. The well used mantra of ‘treat your people how you want them to treat your customers’ is very apt.
I hope Bims never graces our TV screens again in this context. I hope she regularly repeats her Undercover experience again – although in future leave the wig and TV cameras at home. Just taking the time to visit, work alongside, experience and appreciate your staff will mean a whole lot more to all of your people than a TV appearance and a free holiday. I hope that Bims continues to thank people in her organisation who are doing a remarkable job – they are remarkable because they do what they do for love, not money. They are remarkable people who deserve to be told ‘thank you’ by every boss that comes their way.
So think back to the last time that you said ‘thank you’ to your own people. When did you last write them a thank you note? When did you last send them a thank you email? When did you last say thank you to them in person. Can’t remember? Do it now – don’t delay. You can thank me later.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Golding, CCXP
A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider.


  1. Great article, and I agree with all that you have written. I would add, it’s important to not leave it to chance that employees treated well–and thanked–will in turn say “Thank you,” to customers.

    When I had my first several retail jobs as a teenager in the 1970s, my supervisors all told me, adamantly, that the two most important words in business were “thank you,” and these two words were *required*, *especially* when the customer’s money hit my hand, a check was handed over, or a credit card was rung up.

    Those supervisors were adamant that every employee say “thank you” every single time a customer paid: and they listened, every time, to whether we said it, and spoke to us each time if we did not. It is the bare minimum respect and expression of gratitude for the customer’s hard-earned money, and it reinforces customers continuing to pay the business money.

    My supervisors at each different business had a saying they’d quote. “If you don’t say thank you for peoples’ money, it goes away.”

    I am astonished by how rarely cashiers thank me when I pay them nowadays. It’s shocking.

    At bare minimum, don’t these rude supervisors realize that by letting their employees slide on saying “thank you” that they are hurting the company’s bottom line?

    I always wonder when people complain about a slow economy or slow business, or their paychecks, why they would not do the #1 (effortless!) thing that is hurting their business to neglect?

    What fools these business owners and supervisors are for not telling these employees that it is the #1 thing they need to do every time for every paying customer.

    My former supervisors in the 1970s had a clear policy: if an employee didn’t thank the customer at the time of payment, it was inexcusable and the employee was watched and corrected for this, every time. If it continued more than a few times, the employee would lose their job. That’s how important saying “thank you” for money was considered to be.

    That is how important the words “Thank you” are to be emphasized by supervisors. Supervisors should listen for the words “thank you” from the employee each time money is received from the customer, and the employee should immediately be corrected (quietly or in private) if they don’t say thank you.

    As a customer, I find it unbelievably rude when I pay and don’t hear the words “thank you” immediately.

    “Have a nice day” is unacceptable and should be discouraged, because it does not state “thank you” and people fall into the habit of saying it and leaving out the imperative words “thank you.”

    (“Have a nice day” is also considered to be poor manners in the etiquette world, because people are entitled to feel or have whatever kind of day they wish to. Plus the person may have suffered a loss or tragedy, for which those words might sting.)

    As an employee, even if I was required to say “thank you,” it increased my motivation to please each customer, each time I said it. Requiring employees to say “thank you” will remind your employees each time that they are there to serve the customer, and motivate your employees to do their best.

    That is the real secret of saying “thank you”: to do so is humbling, and reminds us to be grateful for each paying customer’s business: a good thing for the customer, the employee, the supervisor, and the businesses’ bottom line.

  2. Thank you so much Ali for taking the time to read and respond to my article. I could not have put it better myself – unfortunately, over time, basic courtesy is being lost in society. Those that instill behaviour and language that are right will ultimately garner a better relationship with customers in the long run!


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