I recently faced the sad reality of the death of a valued client – too young and too soon for an accomplished businesswoman with so much still to contribute. This sad event promoted me to consider how best to acknowledge and express the range of emotions that accompany the many and varied transitions in the lives of those we do business with – from weddings to births, to significant milestones, retirement, and to the ultimate departure from this world. Here are some tips to consider: Do:
- Make the effort to personalise what you say, rather than rely on the words printed in the greeting card
- Hand-write the message
- Send birthday cards or anniversary cards so that they are received on or before the date
- Send sympathy cards or congratulations on the birth of a child two to three weeks after the event – in the immediate aftermath of the event, close friends and family have right of way. Your message or gift will arrive in the quiet aftermath and be all the more appreciated for it
- Give a gift with longevity – mark significant events and milestones with a gift that will be a continual reminder. For example, a bouquet in a vase; a hamper with a picnic basket and picnic rug; an exotic spice set with a mortar and pestal, a water carafe and glass; a beautiful coffee-table book.
- A word of warning – consider whether a bottle of wine is the appropriate gift. One never knows the personal experiences of individuals and alcohol. Notwithstanding the social issues, the thought that goes into selecting a non alcoholic gift is both inspiring and satisfying. Of course, if your client is a known aficionado of red wine … go forth and present the gift of wine.
John Buttling, Australian author of “Winning Hearts & Minds with Words” (Zeus Publications 2008), offers the following ideas for words of condolence to write on sympathy cards, notes or emails. We’re so sorry. Our thoughts are with you. With our deepest sympathy for your loss. With our condolences on this sad occasion. We were shocked and saddened to learn the news. Take heart from the many happy times you shared together. The pain you feel now will gradually dim, but never the many memories.
Remembering and then appreciating life’s milestones and changes is a fundamental sign of respect towards those we interact with throughout our business life.
My business partner and I hand-write every one of our Christmas cards, with a personalised message. We start in October and try to do a number of cards each week. Yes, it is laborious, yet it fundamentally embodies our values and attitude towards our clients. This may not be practical in all business situations – look for other ways to acknowledge the valued relationship with your customers, clients, partners and suppliers. Writing personalised messages can make all the difference between a good reaction and a great reaction.