As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy
Thank you. It is one of the phrases we are taught as soon as we can speak.
Amidst this year's post-Thanksgiving haze, as we rush into the holiday season, I have been happy to see many public displays of gratitude. Several friends on Facebook have launched gratitude challenges, posting something they are grateful for every day for a month. It is great to focus on gratitude for family, friends, health, our education, and our job - and is a bit easier this time of year with the holiday spirit buzzing around.
I am guessing your spouse would be put off if you never thanked him or her for their contributions around the house, to parenting, or to other domestic aspects of your joint life together. I know that I always feel better about doing the dishes when my husband notices and thanks me (around my house, me doing the dishes is a rare and noteworthy event). Bring simple acts of gratitude into the workplace to honor and respect your professional clients in hopes of making them feel more appreciated and part of the team.
Saying thank you doesn't have to be hard. Or expensive.
Today I want to challenge you to think about whether and how you offer gratitude to your clients (remembering to thank staff, supervisors, and referral sources is just as important). As a junior associate (likely without a marketing budget) it can be hard to find inspiration to thank clients at the holidays. Here are 10 simple (and mostly free) ways to offer the thanks and gratitude that people in your professional life deserve. I welcome your additional suggestions in comment to inspire others to show gratitude through their actions.
1. Say Thank You.
Yep, this one is as simple as it gets. The next time you are in a meeting with a client or on the phone with them, try out this sentence: "I want to really thank you for trusting me as your legal counsel - it means a lot to me to have the chance to play a small role in your success." If this phrase feels unauthentic, create some iteration that works for you and say it. Don't email it. Say the magic two words in person or over the phone.
2. Support your clients' success.
Last night I was at a local awards event for small businesses. Several of the businesses are represented by my law firm. Four attorneys from our firm left work early to go be present to watch these clients accept their awards. Showing support for your clients in this way shows that you care about their success, not just their ability to pay your legal bills.
3. Refer to your clients.
If someone is asking about a caterer for their holiday party, and you represent a catering company - throw their name into the mix. Even if they don't end up getting the gig, knowing that you trusted them to refer to someone shows a vote of confidence for their business.
4. Send handwritten thank you cards.
I kid you not, every time I send a thank you note in my hard to read chicken scratch, I get a phone call or a return note saying how refreshing it is to see a handwritten note. I will send a note thanking people for introducing me to a new referral source or client, for picking up the check at lunch, or for being an inspiration. Whatever it is, if you are feeling gratitude for someone, send a note. Kick it old school.
5. Solicit and consider their feedback.
If a client has complained about something or offered suggestions ("Gee, I would really love to be able to pay my bill online with my credit card"), share their concern, consider it, and report back on the results. Or even in a best practice, send out a quick survey to clients whose matters have recently resolved to ask how you could improve client service. Showing that you appreciate their feedback and input is a great show of gratitude.
6. Spread the word.
In addition to specific referrals, you can also spread the word of your clients' businesses or opportunities. If you are social media savvy, like your clients' business pages to see upcoming events, share their posts, retweet their tweets. If you receive an invitation to a great event hosted at your client's business, pass it on to other movers and shakers as an event worth attending. You obviously want to be careful about maintaining confidentiality of information and status as your client, but there is nothing wrong with you generally supporting them and sharing their message with your audience.
7. Break bread with them.
There is just something about sharing a meal with someone. If you want to connect with a client you are thankful for, offer to take them out to lunch. Or grab a happy hour appetizer with you after work. Saying that you want to take them out to thank them for their ongoing business, even better!
8. Honor a milestone or achievement.
Has your client been in business for 15 years? Did they just hire their 100th employee? Did they just close on their biggest licensing deal to date? Of course, a nice congratulatory note is nice, but adding a twist of gratitude to the message is even better. "I am so proud and honored to be part of your legal team - thanks for having me to tag along. Here's to many more years."
9. Discount their bill.
It can be easy to take for granted that your best clients are able to pay their bills. They might appreciate a professional discount from time to time. When you offer a discount, get credit for it - send a handwritten note with their invoice saying that you have offered a token discount to thank them for their loyalty.
10. Host a client appreciation event.
This show of gratitude could be a very simple and inexpensive or a very big and expensive affair. Depending on your clientele, maybe you could talk to a bar and give everyone a drink ticket so the first drink is on you. Or you could host a full-blown affair at your firm or a local event location. Being invited to an event solely for the purpose of being thanked as a client means a lot to people. The next time your firm throws a holiday party or an open house already in the budget and on the calendar, suggest the focus be on appreciation for clients. Simple messaging changes can make all the difference.
Chelsea Callanan is the founder of Happy Go Legal, a multi-media resource for new and aspiring legal professionals. Mrs. Callanan is a 2008 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, and currently practices at Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, Maine, focusing on corporate and intellectual property needs of business of all sizes.