When “You’re Welcome” is Not an Appropriate Response

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I was shopping recently when I was struck with a business revelation (don’t you love when that happens?).

One particular morning, I made purchases in three different stores. In every store, as I checked out I said, “thank you!” In every case, the response I received was, “you’re welcome.”

In the final store, I purchased a buy-two-get-one-free promotion. At the register, fortunately I knew what my total should ring up to be (it’s very important, by the way, to make sure you’re charged advertised sale prices rather than the regular amount…).

When the total rang too high, I stopped the cashier and said, “no, these are buy-two-get-one-free.” She proceeded to walk to the stand holding their sale flyers and began to flip through. After struggling a bit, she told me she would have to call someone over to help. Now, we’re not talking real estate investing money here, but the savings was $14 so I was willing to wait.

Eventually, another employee came over, looked at my items and then at the sale flyer. I offered to take them back to the sale merchandise and show them their own store displays. Neither responded but they, instead, called a third and apparently more important employee over. She almost immediately disputed that my purchases qualified for the discount (when, in fact, they did). I showed why my items were what the ad displayed, and she eventually told the cashier to just take one item off of my total. This apparent “manager” never made eye contact and simply turned and walked away.

After the items were rung up correctly, I thanked the cashier to which I received the standard “you’re welcome,” as she turned to the next person in line. Almost to the door, I passed the manager who had “allowed” me to take advantage of their advertised special. I smiled at her and said, “thank you!” She glanced briefly in my direction and said, “you’re welcome.” It was at that point that something clicked in me.

Wait a minute… I’m the customer! I came in and spent money in your establishment which pays your salary. I was inconvenienced because your flawed system rang up my purchase incorrectly. I was made to wait and defend my position in order to take advantage of a promotion you are running. No one had a kind word, a smile, or a “thank you for your patience and your patronage” for me. This is wrong on so many levels.

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The Lesson Learned for Real Estate Investing

Which led me, fortunately, to drive off pondering how we treat our clients. Do they hear “you’re welcome” when they should be hearing “thank you”?

What do we do for our customers, the most important people in our business, that makes them feel welcomed, that makes them feel special, important, appreciated? Do our customers feel taken for granted?

Our companies service buyers, sellers, property owners, tenants, and investors. I mentally went through the list of different services we provide and how we treat that client. I recommend you do the same.

We will be improving some of our processes.

What I know for sure is that we give gifts to each client, depending upon the service – a book on buying, selling, or landlording. We send “thank you” and “welcome” letters to each new client as well as welcome emails. We send monthly newsletters to our property owners and a different one to our tenants.

But do we thank them enough? Do we make them feel important, to us and to our business? I know we want to.

Perhaps a client survey is in order and the place to start.

Do you make your clients feel important? Or have you been saying, “you’re welcome”?

And, what can you do differently to make your process better?

By the way, thank you for reading this post.

Photo: Svadilfari

About Author

karen rittenhouse

Karen Rittenhouse has been investing in real estate full time since January 2005. In that time, she has purchased hundreds of single family properties, opened a full-service real estate company, a property management company, a coaching/training business, and written three books on real estate.

28 Comments

    • karen rittenhouse

      Haha, Glenn! Exactly right.

      Clerks in all 3 of those establishments should have thanked me:
      Thank you for coming into our store!
      Thank you for your business!
      Thank you for your purchase!

      But, I didn’t trip you up! Congrats on not getting caught in the auto-response!

  1. I think you hit it. Even when your helping someone with their problem, it’s good to remember its a two way street, they could have worked with someone else. I live in Alaska, so my touch is a little less professional and more personal. I’ve included gift baskets with stuff from some of the local businesses, which is free a lot of the times when after explaining the purpose, to those who are from out of the area. I’ve done dinner cards to nice restaurant, to encourage the “date night”. Which works well with those who have transitioned with kids. And most people love the BBQ setting. Could even do something like a potluck get together. I’ve done this with sellers and buyers afterwards.

  2. Thank you too Karen, great article! “Thank you too” is the response I often give to our clients. Come to think of it, saying “Thank you too” is a common practice here in the Philippines, and your article is a good explanation why we don’t just say “welcome”.

    We help our clients buy foreclosed properties at below market value (although we are always on the lookout for those we would buy ourselves) and they naturally say thank you for the good deals. Personally, I end up saying a bigger “thank you” because they decided to choose us as their realtor, as opposed to other buyers who go straight to the bank once they get details from us and our website.

    The ultimate thank you is when buyers refer us to their friends, and we end up as friends and do business with each other regularly. And the cycle continues, and yes, we always thank each other. 🙂

    • karen rittenhouse

      “Thank you, too”, is a fabulous response! You’re absolutely right, anytime a client chooses to work with us, “Thank You” is in order!

      And there is no bigger “thank you” from clients than their referral of friends and family.

      Thank you, Jay, for taking the time to join the conversation.

      To your continued success!

  3. It seems that customer service is all but non-existent these days. Every once in a while I’ll receive a thank you when checking out at a store and it’s a surprise because it happens so infrequently. Little things like saying “Thank you” can go a long way.

    Thank you for writing such an astute article Karen. 🙂

  4. customer service is a lost art anymore- those who still know how to do it stand above the rest and get my repeat business – as for me – I strive to provide the best customer experience possible – looking for ways to say ‘ yes’ not tryig to justify a ‘no’. Great article – thank YOU

    • Jay:
      Surprising clients with good customer service is so easy because everyone has come to expect inferior service. How unfortunate – yet great for those of us who put in the extra effort. It is definitely noticed!

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Thanks Karen for such a simple but profound post. This is a pet peeve of mine why you should be the one saying your welcome on places I visit whether it is a restaurant or shopping or even a simple cup of coffee. I frequently visit a coffee shop where they always say TY but more than that. Have a great day! How are you doing! How are the kids!……… It become more than just getting a cup of coffee & You know what I mean. I wish there was more of that in society. The really good business do .
    Again an excellent post & I learned a few idea’s from it that I will add to my Thank You’s list!!!!

    So a Big THANK YOU for you from me.

  6. This is so similar to what happened to me recently! My discounted purchase wasn’t resolved, and I ended up leaving all three of the items at the register and only buying the small, separate item. The cashier argued with me that only ‘silk’ polo shirts were on sale (these were men’s, and I was in target, so I don’t think so!) when I showed them the stand, just a few feet away that clearly said “Men’s polos: Striped shirts 3 for 2” they STILL argued that the ones I had chosen weren’t included, despite my selection clearly form that stand. Somehow.

    I got no apology, but they got no sale. On my way out, I was given a cheery “Please come again” by one of the idiots who didn’t help at the register.

    Why would they think that is is appropriate, considering they did absolutely nothing to warrant my return? I’m stunned at how there is zero training these days for service and retail staff. Just a few years ago while I was working in these types of jobs while going through college; it was drilled into us to always go above and beyond with a smile, or look for another job.

    • Lois:
      The drop in customer service in this country is shocking and appalling. We tell our students how easy it is to stand out in business – just return phone calls. How many times have you heard, “you’re the only one who’s returned my call.”

      Sad, sad, sad. My son does a ton of international travel. He said it is horrible when landing back in the states at the indifference you’re subjected to. Sad, embarrassing, unnecessary. And, the clerk who wouldn’t help you doesn’t care. She still got her minimum wage paycheck, which is why she works where she does.

      Thanks for sharing, Lois, and adding to the conversation.

  7. Ali Boone

    Ooh, I love it Karen! Awesome perspective. I hadn’t thought of doing that, not just with clients but people in general in life. Instead of just taking the thank you (which I will still say you’re welcome but then add an additional thank you back to them), let them know in return what you are thankful for because you likely didn’t help them out for no reason, they probably did something that benefited you as well so it could go a long way to acknowledge that.

    Great perspective!

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