As we approach the holiday season and the conclusion of another calendar year, business leaders often take time to express their gratitude to customers, staff and business partners.
Certain companies host holiday events or make charitable investments. For most, expressing gratitude means processing a St. Helens-sized pile of greeting cards in stray minutes between year-end meetings and travel.
There is a better way, and it’s not by abandoning gratitude or by employing the latest digital app. Instead, I suggest combining the expression of gratitude with the necessities of year-end planning.
Year-end is an important time to collect feedback and recalibrate business plans. Done effectively, these efforts require engagement with employees, customers and business partners. So why rely solely on a $2 greeting card when you can be making direct personal contact with those who reflect millions in lifetime customer activity?
Here are a number of ways to turn a few of those year-end season chores into actions that will cause you to be even more thankful in years ahead:
Build a gratitude report with staff
Before dashing off to the company’s ugly sweater contest, engage your staff in building a list of the major accomplishments and achievements over the past year. While building that list, ask what slowed them down, what accelerated things and what changes are needed. They will appreciate that you’re listening and you’ll have fresh ideas for new operational improvements. Plus, you have a meaningful appreciation letter for employees and their families.
Ask clients for feedback
Schedule an appointment with your clients when you’re delivering that fancy fruit basket. Look them in the eye, thank them for their business partnership and ask how you can become an even stronger partner. Ask them what else you can do better until they can’t think of anything else. Absorb it all and take it to heart. Although their feedback might sting, they might be pointing you toward ways to vastly improve your sales process, upgrade your customer service, or stave off fast-rising competition. Astonish them by sending a follow-up note telling them you appreciate their business and your action plan from their insights.
Track the origins of your new clients
While you’re looking at year-end numbers and documenting the coming and going of clients, take a few extra minutes to trace how you connected with new clients. You may find that your business growth is occurring not because you have the latest social media bells and whistles. It may be because you did a small project on spec, mobilized your tech team to solve a challenge or were referred by a friend. Whatever it is, explore how you can do more of it. Meanwhile, you will have a targeted list of clients and staff who deserve an extra helping of gratitude.
Ring in the New Year with clients
Begin the New Year by reintroducing yourself. Although we all obsess about our own business, you might be humbled to learn that your customers may not even be able to describe what you, your full product or service line, or what makes you stand apart. Host a New Year customer relationship meeting where, for the price of bringing them breakfast or lunch, you can celebrate another year as business partners, showcase your products and services, highlight upcoming improvements and proactively discuss customer stewardship plans. It will likely result in a growing client relationship, along with prized referrals and references.
Integrating your gratitude and your planning may not cause you to completely escape the card-signing ritual, but it will lead you to a more pleasant year-end and give you a lot more to celebrate.
Ron Arp is president of Amplify Group, which brings pain relief to its clients through PR and communications. He can be reached at email@example.com or 360.601.2991.