What would 11-star service look like? That’s the question that Brian Chesky asked himself to figure out how he and his team at Airbnb needed support hosts to help everyone involved have an exceptional experience.

I first heard this idea of 11-star service during Brian’s interview with Reid Hoffman on the first episode of Masters of Scale. The idea is that you want to create the capacity for these exceptional customer experiences to happen on a regular basis. The more regularly they happen, the more people come back and buy again–and the more they tell their friends.

Of course, creating this 11-star service doesn’t just produce business results. It produces human results. Someone who takes the time to create an 11-star service isn’t just concerned with the bottom line, they are truly invested in showing genuine gratitude to the person they’re doing business with.

This month at CoCommercial, we’re talking about Gratitude and how it shapes the way we do business. So we asked a few of our members: what do you do to ensure your customers know you’re grateful?

I noticed a pattern in their responses. Gratitude wasn’t about a thank you gift or note. It wasn’t something that happened once at the end of an engagement. It wasn’t even a bonus surprise that got thrown in as a special value-add.

Gratitude was the whole customer experience. These business owners have operationalized gratitude into the very bones of their businesses.

In other words, these business owners are creating an 11-star experience for their customers every single day. It’s just how they roll.

Hubspot says that a customer experience should be designed to that the customer understands these 3 things:

  • They are more than a transaction to your organization
  • Their time and money allow you to continue to pursue your mission
  • Their journey as a person is a part of your journey as a business.

As you listen to this special episode, ask yourself what your own 11-star experience could look like:

  • How can you bake gratitude into every step of your customer experience?
  • How will you ensure your customer feels like more than a transaction?
  • How are you connecting your customer’s experience to your mission as a company?
  • How can you help them along their personal journey as they journey along with your business?

Making Gratitude Your Business

First up, Lacy Boggs, who doesn’t just make showing gratitude her business–she makes it her team’s business too.

Lacy Boggs

Hi. This is Lacy Boggs, I’m the director of The Content Direction Agency. We help thought leaders and small business owners communicate effectively and authentically with content marketing strategy and implementation. This means we can write your content for you, sounding just like you, so your clients and customers need never know.

One of the ways we take care of our customers and try to show our gratitude is that we have contracted with a supplier who does branded swag. We have her print out a physical copy of the report my strategy clients receive at the end of our strategy coaching sessions and put it in a really cool folder that she and I picked out together. She puts some cool custom stamps on it that say things like “Top Secret” and “For Your Eyes Only,” and then she prints out a card that I’ve typed with my logo and letterhead, putting it all in a cool envelope with a notepad. We send it to recent customers so that they get this cool package in the mail that includes a printed out copy of their strategy document that I put together for them.

I’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback about that. People are really surprised. They think it’s really cool to get something in the mail and they think it’s really cool to have a physical copy of their strategy document. Especially because a lot of my strategy documents include check boxes, to-do lists, so they can literally, physically check things off, if they choose to, all in a cool folder that’s Content Direction Agency branded.

Another cool thing we do at Content Direction Agency to show gratitude to our clients is that all of my team members have a budget, a quarterly budget, for client gifting and client appreciation. They all know they have a set amount of money they can spend, to send a thank-you card or flowers if somebody has a loss or a milestone. They can send a gift if somebody has a baby, moves to a new house or has a book that comes out. They could buy a book that they and the client had been talking about, something like that. They all know they have a budget every quarter for client appreciation, and all they have to do is put it on their invoice and I reimburse them when they do.

I love being able to empower my team to show gratitude as much as I do because they’re on the front lines with a lot of our customers and it’s much more personal to have it come straight from them than from me or an assistant. And we’ve had really good responses to that as well. Thanks.

Making Them Feel Safe, Making Them Feel Seen

Operationalizing gratitude can be especially important in a business that helps people deal with tough stuff like self-worth, relationships, and even trauma. Nicole Lewis-Keeber gets her 11-star experience started early by showing gratitude for the people who show up to do the hard work–even before they’re clients.

Nicole Lewis-Keeber

Hi there. I’m Nicole Lewis-Keeber. I’m a speaker, business therapist, and mindset coach for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Oh, man, and what do I do? I help my clients reveal and release the blocks and blind spots that they have in their business that are connected to childhood trauma or some kind of adverse childhood experience. I help them do this so that they can create a business that’s financially successful, as well as emotionally sustainable. I think emotional sustainability within our businesses is super important, and it’s something that we don’t quite approach. I haven’t really seen anyone approach it specifically from a childhood trauma aspect. We bring all of who we are into our business. That’s been something super important for me to pay attention to while working with my clients and showing appreciation for them.

I want to tell you what works for me with my clients in showing them that I’m paying attention, that I care, and I’m so happy that we’re working together.

One of the very first things I do when I get a new client, after I’ve worked pretty hard to make sure that they’re ideal, after I’ve started to get to know them some, I send them a little treat. I have a relationship with a company called Loving Cup Teas. It’s a small business in the midwest, and I absolutely love this woman’s teas. They’re hand-blended. They’re very nourishing, and they just feel like a little bit of a treat. She has curated a box for me that has three different teas, a diffuser, and they’re branded with fun names. They’re connected to my business, and she will send them a box within a week of us starting to work together.

It’s just a little thank you, a little hello to say I’m so glad you’re here. Here is a little treat to begin to nourish you, to have something to drink while we’re talking. It’s just a little thank you to say hello.

And as I get to know my clients more, one of the things that they often ask me, because of the work I do studying the impact of trauma on entrepreneurship, is about who are my teachers and how do did I learn about this? And what is the work that we’re doing together?

About a month in or so, I will send them a box that is just chock full of books. I love to read, and I certainly hope that they do too. This box will have three or four books that are kind of like my reference manuals for the work that I do. I include a beautiful card and a journal and a pen for them to really kind of dig into some of the work outside of our calls. And they have really responded to this initial gift as, wow, within a week of saying yes here I have this box of tea. That’s beautiful. Thank you, and oh my goodness, I love to read. Thank you for sharing your knowledge base with me so that I can learn more about what we’re doing together.

What I have found to be so important is creating safety for my clients. And how do we do that? We create safety by allowing them to be seen. In the end, we all just want to be seen, right?

We want to feel like we’re acknowledged for who we are.

That this is happening with the person we’re sharing our time with and trusting to change something in our lives, something as big as our business. Man, being seen by them is super important.

The appreciation that I show by sending these gifts is really reciprocated in that they relax, and they allow me to help. They share more. It’s really an awesome synchronicity in how we’re reacting to each other. Sometimes during the week, I send them a funny meme. I’ll send them a mantra or a meditation that I really feel is pertinent to their particular block, or the aha moment that they have had. I’ll send them a little note that kinda highlights that aha moment to remind them that this is the pivot. This is what we’re dealing with. This is where your power is.

So for me, what works is really getting to know my clients. Making them feel seen, making them feel safe, and really participating in the process of creating that trusting relationship between the two of us. So that’s what’s working for me and my business, and I am so thankful to be able to share this with you today.

Feeling Gratitude For The Business That You Have Built

Focusing on your customers doesn’t just make them feel good. It can make you feel good too. Bonnie Gillespie shares two stories from her journey about how showing gratitude toward her customers helped her feel more grateful for the business she’d built herself.

Bonnie Gillespie

Hello, beautiful people. This is Bonnie Gillespie and I’m the author of Self-Management for Actors, the book upon which my empire has been built. I work with creatives in show business, helping them find more joy in the journey as they navigate the business side of things.

I started writing for actors in 1999 when I interviewed casting directors to demystify the process of all the things that go on in the world of casting. My goal is to leave Hollywood better than I found it, and I mean Hollywood in a global sense, as an industry rather than as a physical location. I love working with creatives all over the world and I have much gratitude for them and have done several clever things throughout our nearly 20 years as a business to help show my gratitude for these amazing people.

I’ve selected two stories that I want to share with you. One from when we were not yet at a point where we could spend any money to show our gratitude, and another from when we’ve been able to invest quite a bit into showing that gratitude. I think that both examples will help folks who are looking to show gratitude to their buyers in ways that might be at one end of the spectrum or the other.

The first that I’m going to share is from this time when I was actually really disillusioned. I had gotten into a rut with my business. I was just feeling kind of down and blue, and all those icky things that people don’t enjoy feeling about their life’s work – something that they are so, usually, joy-filled for having created. And I decided the best way to get myself out of a funk would be to make contact with the people who are most engaged, and most excited, about what I do.

At the time I had a decent-sized mailing list but I was still operating with MailChimp. One of the cool features of MailChimp is that you can rank your mailing list members by the number of stars that they received based on how many emails they open, how many things they click on,  and how often they reply or forward. And so I had this really cool, ranked list of my mailing list members and decided, “I’m going to reward all of my five-star mailing list members for being such rock stars. I’m going to send emails to the five-star mailing list members and invite them to have a free mini-coaching session with me.”

And at the time I had never done a mini-coaching session. I didn’t know what a mini-coaching session was. I just figured, “I can get on the phone with you for 15 minutes and maybe fix a problem or two, or at least give you a mindset shift that would help with your perspective and showbiz career. Why not? Let’s give it a go.”

I sent out an email inviting them to schedule, with a link to my scheduler, just to have at it. We’re going to spend the entire month of August doing these mini-coaching calls and I had no idea how many to expect to do. But I figure, you know, a lot of people don’t open emails or click on things or read things, and so it’s probably not going to be a ton.

Except these were my five-star mailing list members.

So Bonnie, what have you done? I ended up sending this email out to 333 five-star mailing list members, in the month of August, and I coached 218 different people just for these mini-coaching sessions. There was hardly a day in August when I wasn’t on the phone with some wonderful human, if not 10 wonderful humans, in a single day to get all the coaching done.

The cool part about it was, yeah, we did some coaching. I helped them with maybe busting through some blocks – giving them a perspective shift. Sure, we definitely did all of that cool stuff. But what also happened was I got to chat with people who may have never been able to actually buy anything more than my book. We’d never actually worked together before in some cases, and this was their first chance to actually get to chat with me, and thank me for the book.

So I’m talking with my super-fans. I’m really having a blast getting this amazing glow of love on every phone call, and also helping make some change for these wonderful people. In very short order, this whole experiment not only showed a great deal of gratitude for these fantastic people but also really warmed my heart, and reignited my love and passion for my business, helping me shape what I needed to create. Because I had basically interviewed hundreds of people about what their needs were, and what they valued about what we’re putting in the world. Who knew that that was going to end up being something that worked in both directions, as far as the gratitude was concerned?

The second example that I wanted to share is from more recently when we’ve had some money to invest in showing our gratitude.

We have a membership program that has been extraordinarily successful. It has surpassed every estimate and every expectation that we ever thought possible for it, and completely changed our lives and our business.

It has revolutionized so much about how we do things.

I can’t say enough good things about our membership program. This 100-day program has an ongoing membership and if you want to stay in it’s like a gym and you continue to pay a membership fee after the initial 100 days of the curriculum. When we first launched the program and invited people in, we had what we called our inaugural class. We never closed registration so you can join any time you want, but this inaugural class we felt really close to, obviously, because we were kind of creating the program alongside them being there in it.

Some days, I was putting up the next day’s curriculum 20 minutes, or even two minutes, before they were going to get the email saying that that day’s curriculum was available. Because I didn’t realize when I launched the program that I was setting myself up to have to create 100 days of curriculum, every single day, and not really have any time off. I didn’t really think through that so clearly. But hey, it turned it out to be a fantastic thing because it allowed me to be responsive to what people were saying they needed, and what they were going through, what they were struggling with.

So all that to say, this original group, this inaugural group, never left. We had read all the stats. We were prepared to have attrition. We were certainly aware that we were going to be losing people. And we just weren’t losing people which of course revolutionized things for us financially.

But it also showed us, “Wow, we’ve got something really special here.”

One of the things that we have everyone do on day one of the course is pick a “focus word.” At various time throughout the program, someone might share their focus word, or maybe not. They’re not all really required to list it somewhere. But with a little bit of poking around, with a little bit of investigating, my team and I were able to find out about 85% of our inaugural class’ focus words.

We hired this artist to make these custom bracelets in different metals, with different fonts, to represent each of the focus words that we ordered them in different batches and we surprised our inaugural class, and some of the really special people who came in right after that, with these bracelets at the end of the first year of our program. It was a total: “Thank you. We’re so happy that you are on this journey with us. We’re so excited to get to be a part of your process. And, you’re awesome and need to have this little trinket of our love to just wear if it feels good to you to have it.”

What we weren’t expecting from that was how much this exploded on social media. Everyone wanted to take a picture of their new bracelet. Everyone wanted to model their new bracelet. Everyone wanted to show off the custom cards that we included with the artwork that I had hired a cartoonist to do for us. All that cool shit.

And every bit of it, all over social media, then turned into a, “Hey what’s this about? Whoa, what’s this from?” “Oh, it’s a graduation present from Bonnie Gillespie and her team … blah, blah, blah, blah.” Whoa, did that create ripple effects that we were never expecting. So now here are all these new people coming in, and joining the course, and being mentored by some of these inaugural members who have not left.

It just continued to grow and continues to grow exponentially.

Now, of course, everyone knows that they’re going to get a bracelet as their graduation present. As I’m recording this, I’m in London at the end of a five-week world tour where I have been – in addition to having a vacation – touring around to five different cities to meet with, and work with, all of these fantastic actors that I’ve known online.

And I have with me my little bag of bracelets like I’m Santa Claus, and I get to surprise them with these bracelets at our meetings over the course of these weeks that I’ve been out here traveling. It’s just a thrill like you would not believe. They’ve definitely responded in beautiful ways. Of course, I am just over the moon with the work that they’ve done and what we’ve been able to accomplish to help them get closer to their goals, and of course have a lot more joy along their creative journey.

So what I’ve learned is that showing gratitude has an amazing ability to make me more grateful for the business that I’ve built. And boy is that a side effect that I wasn’t expecting and really appreciate, and it’s only up from here.

Gratitude From The Very Beginning

Gratitude doesn’t just happen in the client send-off. Sometimes, it’s the way things get started. Anna Laman shares how her new client onboarding process is a way she shows gratitude–even as she shares her expectations and boundaries with her clients.

Anna Laman

Hi, my name is Anna Laman, I’m a messaging advisor. I help freelancers, consultants, and other solo entrepreneurs write their own website copy.

So my favorite way to take care of my clients is to onboard them really well and really quick. My process helps them understand clearly if we’re a good fit for working together. It shows that I’m grateful for their time. I don’t want to waste their time or just keep them hanging when they’re trying to make a decision. It also reassures them that they’re working with someone who is reliable and trustworthy.

So the way I do this: the first step is that I have all of the details, including pricing, on my website. That way they know what they’re getting into. They can understand if it’s a good fit for what they want to do, and they can know off the bat if they can afford it. If they’re interested they fill out an application form on my website. I don’t just have a contact form, rather I have a series of questions that they answer that really help me see immediately if and how I can help them. It also helps them reflect on where they’re at in their business and whether this work is a good next step for them.

Within one business day I will read their application and if I approve it, I’ll send them an email to schedule their own call. That scheduling app really frees us up, both of us, from wasting time on that back and forth scheduling game within an email. They can just use my scheduling app to just pick a time that works for them.

Then we’ll have a short 30-minute discovery call. Because they filled out the application at the beginning we don’t have to rehash everything about their business. We can just jump into a conversation where I make observations about what they’ve submitted to me, I can make recommendations for things they can do now and ways we could work together, and then I answer any questions they have.

I also make sure to spend a few minutes during that call to explain my expectations and my boundaries in working together to ensure that none of these things are deal breakers that surprise them at the last moment, maybe even after they’ve purchased. I like to get that conversation out of the way so we’re both on the same page when we get started.

I find that communicating clearly with someone is really the best gift you can give them.

I don’t want them to feel like they don’t know what’s happening, or they don’t know the next step, or they don’t know how long this is going to take. All that confusion is really overwhelming for people.

Finally, once they say yes, and most people do at this point because this process has been so clear up to that point, I have a super fast turnaround on the closing steps. I send them a contract and invoice as soon as I can, preferably right after I get off the phone with them. And once both of those things are completed, I immediately send them a getting-started email. I try to send this within minutes of receiving their payment and their signed agreement. That email includes a link to the schedule that enables them to schedule their first call. It has other policies I know that they need to know about how we’re going to work together. This quick turnaround means that they have some immediate gratification in this process and they’re excited to get started. We use that excitement to get a lot of the work done very quickly. All in all, we can usually go from initial contact of filling out that application form to having their first session with me as a client within one week.

My clients have expressed a lot of appreciation for this process. Some have told me that it’s the reason they’ve hired me, that other people they talked to had processes that were not as clear, or not as efficient, and they really appreciated that. Others want to know what systems I use so that they can recreate the process for the clients because they see how well it works. I had a couple of people say they admire how seriously I take both my time and their time, and it really inspires them to think about their own time and their own boundaries in a new way.

So that’s what I do to take care of my clients at the beginning of a relationship, and I think it really sets the stage for how I’m going to treat them and their business and their concerns throughout the rest of our engagement together.

Bringing Gratitude To The Local Level

Finally, Kristen Runvik shows gratitude by taking a look at the full experience of her customer. For her skin care business, that means not just thinking about the product a customer has purchased today–but the product a customer might purchase tomorrow. She also makes sure to take special care of her wholesale partners and give back to her small business ecosystem.

Kristen Runvik

Hi, there, this is Kristen Runvik and I am the holistic herbalist and founder of Lagom Body Co. Lagom Body Co is an all natural skin care line made entirely from all natural, skin-friendly ingredients. Our purpose and main mission with the company is to inspire people to look at these routine daily moments and really slow down to transform them into a ritual.

Gratitude is a part of our main feeling and mission to what we do with our business.

There are a couple different ways that I show gratitude for my customers, both retail and wholesale. For my retail customers, something that I do all year round is pop in a sample for one of the products in the product collection so that they can try it. If I have a brand new product, that maybe isn’t out yet, I am always putting in a sample of that into their order. Then if they’re a returning customer, and they’re ordering pretty often, and have really supported my company over the years, I am always popping in something a little extra. I do handwritten notes. Sometimes I’ll give them a full-size product depending on what I have in stock. Something that they’ve tried yet, but something that they might have indicated in an email or in a conversation that they were really eager to try.

So I love to give back to my customers in that way. And I think it’s really fun because obviously they’re getting their order in the mail and they know kind of what they ordered, what to expect, But when they get their order it’s also this extra little thing. It just kind of shows that I’m listening to my customers with intention. That I am doing something that also shows my appreciation for their support as a small business.

With my wholesale stockists, I do something similar. I’m always giving them samples, but because I’m usually talking to them more often and seeing them more often, I have a deeper relationship with them. So, this year I’m giving them this little pack of a product because a lot of times these stockists are buying the stock to sell to their customers but not necessarily taking one for themselves. I’m giving them a product that they can try, that they can take home and infuse into their daily life.

Also, because the majority of my stockists are in my local area, I’m going to be buying them gift cards to local businesses. I’m going to include coffee shops and restaurants. That way I’m not only supporting the small business here, but I’m also providing something that shows my appreciation. Something that’s fun and useful. Something that’s practical, but something that someone wouldn’t have necessarily bought for themselves.

So, those are just a couple of ways that I show my appreciation and gratitude for my customers. I’m always getting more ideas, and there are always different ways to go about it, but so far these are the couple ways that have worked really well for the size of my business and my workflow and also knowing that people really appreciate it, and that’s really what’s all about.

How Are You Expressing Gratitude?

I hope you’re buzzing with ideas of ways you can show genuine gratitude for your customers, improve their experiences, and deliver 11-star service. Remember that saying “thank you” is more than a note or gift. Saying “thank you” starts with the way you do business.

Do you have a special way of showing your gratitude to customers and partners? We want to hear about it! Email us at hello@cocommercial.co and let us know.