Of all the character traits instilled in us as children, there is one that can set us apart if we choose to carry it into our adulthood. Many memorable athletes, business leaders, entertainers, and world changers personify this value. That value is gratitude: the embodiment of being thankful and appreciative.
Science tells us that the practice of gratitude produces positive results in one’s life. Communal gratitude strengthens relationships and improves behavior because it makes people feel socially valued. When people feel appreciated, they are inspired to act. For a company, gratitude affects team productivity and customer interaction with the brand.
Practicing, or not practicing, gratitude becomes a part of one’s reputation, and can help companies stand out in a results-oriented world. The key is making gratitude a part of who you are and not something you do. Integrating gratitude into a company culture changes the ability for a business to effectively attract its target market and establish brand loyalty. However, that doesn’t involve practicing gratitude with a motive of getting more customers.
Southwest Airlines, ranked as one of Business Insider’s 50 Best Places to Work in 2018 according to employees, set themselves apart by practicing gratitude in an industry under public scrutiny for putting profit and policy before people. In light of recent scandals, airlines are in a unique position to implement brand values and regain trust and appreciation from customers. Southwest Airlines excels at creating a reputation for treating their customers with gratitude. As a result, Southwest has built brand loyalty and trust, and customers tend to share their experience. Actress Molly Ringwald even took to social media to thank the airline for helping her father in a medical crisis. Southwest creates a culture around who they are, not what they provide. That value is confirmed in how their customers are treated.
Last year, Southwest debuted a campaign called “Behind Every Seat is a Story: Behind Every Story is the Reason for Transfarency.” Southwest captured more than 100 customer stories highlighting people as the company’s priority. This creativity and willingness to help people cannot be fabricated in company culture. Southwest uses customer service to exude their gratitude and appreciation. Even after a malfunction crisis this year that caused the death of a passenger, people separated the accident from Southwest’s brand identity, because Southwest has built a reputation of valuing people and practicing empathy.
Technology today gives consumers a platform to praise or criticize a brand’s practice in ethics and customer service. If companies are not demonstrating gratitude, their brand is already vulnerable. Customers appreciate gratitude because it makes them feel they are worth more than just money to the company. Customers know when a company values gratitude from the way they are treated by employees who carry the company culture. The root of a gracious culture starts with top-level leaders and trickles down. If you want to transform the culture of your brand, the transformation should always begin at the top.
The attributes that make companies successful aren’t always tied to sales secrets or innovative products. Customer service isn’t rocket science, but rather people skills that were ingrained in our childhood. People want to be appreciated, valued, and treated fairly. The companies who successfully embody this attribute create loyalty and sustainability.