The checkout clerk was friendly enough. Smiled, made good eye contact. Even engaged in conversation with me. Wow, I thought. Great service. And then it happened. As he handed over my neatly bagged five-items-or-less, I thanked him. He thanked me back.

We all know that it’s good manners to use, “Please” and “Thank you.” But it seems that fewer people use the proper response when someone thanks them. The correct thing to say is, “You’re welcome,” of course. But today’s service providers seem to be allergic to that one. Instead, they’ve become fond of the following three less-appropriate responses that have somehow become part of our accepted language.

Raise your level of service and personal interaction by avoiding these three “non-responses”:

  1. “Oh, thank you!” (Whoosh – it’s back on my side of the net! What do I do?) “No really, thank yooooou!” The volley begins – who will tire first? Who will gracefully let the lob go unreturned? Why not avoid the verbal contest in the first place? A well placed “You’re welcome” would comfortably complete this interaction. Never answer, “Thank you” with “Thank yoooou.” Aside from the fact that it’s incorrect, it’s one of those habit phrases – the ones you say without thinking, without really connecting with the other person. So when someone starts singing, “Thank yoooou,” I know he or she really isn’t even paying attention to me anymore and has gone into their “automatic response mode.” What that signals to me is, “I already have your money/the information I need/whatever from you and am done with you, but I need to say something to close this conversation.” Is that the impression you want to leave with your customers?
  2. “No problem.” What? Do you mean sometimes what I’ve asked you to do is a problem? I thought asking the server to bring an extra side of sour cream or asking the sales clerk to check to see if my desired items are in stock were a part of their job duties! Maybe I should do business where I won’t be a bother, huh? Your customers are listening to you. Be sure to say what you want them to hear.
  3. “It’s my job.” Well, thank you Captain Obvious. My showing appreciation for your efforts by thanking you did not mean that I was wondering if my request fit your job description. I’m sure you meant to show that you’re just doing what you’re expected to do. Maybe even that you were happy to serve me. But that’s not what you said. Instead, the message I hear is, “Hey, I’m just doing what my job description requires and I really don’t care about you personally.” The world is impersonal enough as it is. Choose another closing and allow me to maintain my self-esteem.

“You’re welcome.” Alone, or with an extra personalized message (“Glad to do it” or “Happy to help”), this phrase distinguishes you from the service industry robots. And in today’s competitive marketplace, we’re all looking for the “extras” we can offer our clients that will keep them loyal and telling others about us. Personal connection throughout the entire service interaction makes your customers feel important and cared for. Add to your bottom line by creating a customer service approach that encompasses the entire interaction. Your customers will thank you.

And when they do, the proper response is “You’re welcome,” of course.

Posted by Pam Wyess in Customer Service.

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