Someone recently asked me if I give thank you gifts to my customers.

I do, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary.

Whenever I finish a project, or even make a presentation to a business group, my office sends a $25 Godiva Chocolates basket with a card as a thank you. Not only that, but I have this thing where, for the past few years, I’ve been choosing one client at random every month and also sending them a $25 Godiva Chocolates gift basket. This has definitely made the people at Godiva Chocolates very happy (in fact, I received a personal thank you call from the company last holiday season for our business).

But, more importantly, has this made my clients happy?

Sure, it hasn’t hurt. I’ve received thank you emails from them regarding my thank you gift to them (got that?). It’s a nice touch and, for the few hundred dollars it costs me a year, I think it’s something I’ll continue. But frankly, this should not be my primary gift to my clients. Neither should it be yours. Our primary gift should be one thing and one thing only: Delivering. As. Promised.

Gift cards, chocolates, and holiday greetings are nice. But if you’re doing work for me, all I really want is for you to just do what you say you’re going to do:

  • Show up on time
  • Finish your job on time
  • Do a good job
  • Don’t give me headaches
  • Take ownership
  • Figure things out
  • Deliver. As. Promised

The world is full of too many people and organizations who simply don’t do what they say they’re going to do:

  • They make excuses
  • They are late
  • They are incompetent
  • They go over-budget
  • They don’t listen
  • They don’t ask

You know this. You experience this all the time. Your package is not delivered on its due date. The raw materials you ordered get shipped to the wrong place. Your customer who said he was going to pay you this week … didn’t. Your computer crashes after an update. Your plane is delayed because the crew was getting McDonald’s. Your promised loan isn’t approved after all.

All of this has happened to me — and yes, they were late to the plane because they were actually getting McDonald’s. I’m sure much of this has happened to you too.

All day we suffer with people and organizations who disappoint us. We pay and we don’t get what’s promised. We keep up our end, but they don’t keep up theirs. We’re then forced to figure out alternatives, workarounds, and excuses for the other organizations and customers that are relying on us because now we can’t deliver as promised.

The answer is to Deliver. As. Promised. Don’t over-promise. Be realistic. Be upfront. Be transparent. If you can’t get something done on time, then communicate that and say when you will get it done. If something is over your head, admit that and get help. If you are making assurances based on estimates and guesses, get better facts first.

People, particularly those of us running businesses, don’t like surprises. We would prefer to deal in reality. We want to be assured that, when someone tells us they’re competent, trained, certified, and experienced, it means that we can rely on them to do what they say they’ll do.

Giving gifts is nice. But it’s really not gifts that your customers want from you. It’s execution, plain and simple. Happily paying and coming back for more? Now that’s the best gift they can give to us!

Tell Us: Do you give your clients or customers thank you gifts? What do you give them?