“You’re welcome.” It’s a phrase that every one of us learned to say when we were young.
Not just to be polite, but to express our willingness to give something—our time, money, or thought— to someone else. But in today’s increasingly casual world, the words “you’re welcome” seem to be falling by the wayside. I’m on a personal mission to bring them back.
Say thank you to a restaurant server, and many times, the reply you’ll get is a careless, “No problem.” No problem? I hope it’s not a problem for me to pay to for my burger and beer. And by the way, as the customer, isn’t is it my call as to whether there is a problem or not? Sheesh. Say thank you to anyone—from a cashier to a banker to a close friend—and an off-handed “sure” is the likely response. The unrequited thank you is just as prevalent on radio and television: the host thanks the guest for coming on to the show, and the response is not “you’re welcome,” but “Thank YOU!” There are now billions of thank you’s out there waiting for a you’re welcome. They are figuratively starting to pile up on our streets and in our communities. Like sentences without periods, boomerangs waiting to return the unfulfilled thank you is more than an unfinished social nicety, it can be a missed opportunity. Now is the time to make a change.
As an advisor, your client relationships drive your business. If you’re guilty as charged of taking your clients’ thank yous for granted, here’s why you need to change your ways and your words:
Talking about money makes your clients vulnerable.
Amy Florian, the author of No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients Through the Toughest Times of Life, gets it. Whether your clients are coming to you in times of crisis like a divorce, death of a spouse, or financial dilemma (which Florian covers in detail), or times of opportunity like a marriage, career promotion, or inheritance, many conversations about money are charged with emotion. To help advisors avoid the trap of using language that unintentionally alienates distressed clients, she offers specific suggestions for how to respond appropriately to clients. “You’re welcome” is just the beginning when your client is in crisis, but it’s an awfully good place to start.
Your words have the power to strengthen your client relationships.
I’m no psychologist, but I know the impact that words have on my own relationships with people. If I can tell someone is taking in what I’ve said and responding with a thoughtful reply, it tells me not only that they value what I have to say, but also that they know I value what they think. By choosing your response and your words carefully, you are telling your clients that you’re really listening. Assuring them that you care about what they think and what they feel is the strongest relationship builder there is.
Careless language can be misinterpreted as careless business.
I’m not suggesting that every word you say should carry the weight of the world, or that you only use highly proper language when speaking with clients. Every client is different, and it’s important to adapt to your audience. But there’s a big difference between being welcoming and friendly, and being so casual that you appear careless. An offhand comment or careless response to a question can be translated into “You don’t take me seriously.” In many cases, your clients are entrusting you with their life savings. That’s business that should never be treated lightly.
It may sound petty, and I might sound like an old guy ranting on the demise of the English language, but details matter. Words matter. And as an advisor, paying attention to the words you speak to your clients is a critical part of your communication. Saying “You’re welcome” is another way to say, “I hear that you appreciate what I did to help.” That’s something that can be important to say, even if the words sound automatic. Even better, it opens the door for you to continue to help—and that’s what being a trusted advisor is all about.
Let’s face it: it’s hard for people to talk about money. As an advisor, it’s your job to try to make the conversation as easy as possible and to be sure your clients feel that their fears, joys, and expectations are being heard. When you’re able to help, whether that’s with a kind word or the financial guidance they need to take the next step, their “thank you” means a lot. Treat it with the respect it deserves, and fill your “You’re welcome” with the same amount of care. All those forgotten thank you’s that are piling up around us will someday thank you in the end.