The Science of Gratitude

There have been many articles written on the benefits of gratitude. They’re usually published in science or mindfulness journals, or – come the new year – on happiness and self-development blogs.

Not many of those articles talk about the benefits of gratitude in a business setting. There’s a whole area of psychology dedicated to business which is based on understanding human behaviour and how this can be applied to manage workplace relationships for improved outcomes. Considering that, it seems fitting to talk about evidence based benefits of gratitude for increasing your company’s performance.

The ROI of gratitude

Showing gratitude and saying thank you go hand in hand. It only takes a small amount of effort on your part to trigger a huge amount of returned benefits, all based on the single act of saying “thank you” to your customer.
Remember that without your customers there wouldn’t be a business in the first place, so of course you would be grateful for having them, and want them to return as well as recommend you.

The general benefits of practicing gratitude are enormous. People who regularly focus on being thankful experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, show more compassion and kindness, and often have stronger immune systems.

In business, gratitude doesn’t have to be reserved for the big moments when you acquire a giant customer or score a great investment deal. It starts with being thankful for small things, such as having a happy customer reach out to you, or even receiving a support ticket because something’s not working for them. Instead of seeing this as a hassle, look at it from the point of view of having customers who care enough to want your product or service to work for them. They trust in you to help them make it work.

Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that regularly writing down moments for which you’re grateful for can have a significant positive impact on your wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Now let’s translate this into business to make it relevant. Regularly showing your customers that you’re grateful for them, e.g. by writing them a short email or letting them know in your next newsletter, can significantly increase your company’s culture, as well as your customers’ happiness.

The study also showed that practicing gratitude raised the participants’ willingness to help others with a problem or offer emotional support. Combining this finding with customer support enquiries, practicing gratitude should make it easy to be proactive at keeping customers happy.

All this leads to another seemingly obvious ROI of gratitude – it opens the door to more relationships. Showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes the person more likely to seek an ongoing relationship with you. Doesn’t this sound like a great way to gain new customers and keep old ones?

If you’re reading this post I assume you’re rather proactive when it comes to self-improvement, learning at work, and customer happiness. The thing with gratitude though is that it seems like such a basic and simple concept that we’re often fast to dismiss it, thinking we already know all this stuff, so we just skip over it. We hardly ever take real action on it.

So let’s look at a few key, scientifically proven concepts that can help you maintain the practice of gratitude over the long-term to ensure increased customer satisfaction and therefore overall business growth.

Send a personal thank you note to one customer a day

The best way to gain the benefits of gratitude is to notice new things you’re grateful for in your business every day, especially when it comes to your customers. In a general sense it is recommended to journal and write down what you’re grateful for, in a business setting it can be helpful to write a quick note to one customer per day.

This method works because we change the way we look and perceive situations by changing what we focus on. While it may be easy to send out a generic email, be sure to get specific and focus on a couple of details about what exactly it is that makes you grateful to have that customer. It’s personal and will make them feel more special.

This approach is supported by Robert Emmons, who suggests that focusing our gratitude on people rather than circumstances or material items will enhance the benefits we experience.

You could also share the moments that you were most grateful for during the day or week with your co-workers. The conversations that come out of it may give you even more reasons and ideas to practice gratitude.

Anticipate and navigate the obstacles

Being excited about the benefits of gratitude can be great because it motivates us to get started. But if that excitement gets drowned out by an enormous to-do list and a stressful day, it’s likely those good intentions won’t stay fruitful for long. When we want to achieve a goal, we have to be aware of and plan for the obstacles that may get in the way. Know what a typical day at work will look like for you, and schedule your customer gratitude emails at a time that will allow you to be genuine and actually enjoy the process of writing it.

Keeping it up

In order for us to keep up a positive habit, it’s helpful to come from a place of intrinsic motivation – an internal desire to persist, rather than an external one imposed on us by someone else. One of the biggest factors is autonomy, the ability to do things the way we want them to do.

So don’t limit yourself, try something new that feels right for you. If sending personal emails to customers isn’t your thing, try sending physical cards for Christmas, giving them a call, or simply start by thanking a co-worker for helping you out.

It’s all about staying flexible so you can maintain your gratitude practice to reap the benefits.

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