By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
May 11, 2022
The words we use definitely impact how our patients view us. Do you want patients to sit in a “waiting room” or in a “reception center?”
A basic rule of politeness is to say “You’re welcome” after someone says “Thank you.” After over 40 years of studying persuasion, a leading psychologist and author, Robert Cialdini, came to the conclusion that saying, “You’re welcome” is a missed opportunity.i As soon as someone says, “Thank you” there is a moment of power that is lost if we just say, “You’re welcome.”
The unconventional reply that Cialdini suggests is, “I know you’d do the same for me.” This is called direct reciprocity.
This reply gives at least three potential advantages:
1) It conveys that we have the type of relationship where we can ask each other for favors without keeping score.
2) It communicates confidence that you’re the kind of person who’s willing to help others.
3) It activates the norm of reciprocity, making sure the person saying, “Thank You” feels obligated to pay the favor back in the future.
Not everyone is going to be comfortable using Cialdini’s phrase. Adam Rifkin, a serial entrepreneur named Fortune’s best networker, wasn’t comfortable. Rifkin is known to go out of his way to help a large number of people, doing what he calls five-minute favors. Riftkin modified the Cialdini reply to “Thank you” to be “I know you’ll do the same for someone else.”
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This adaptation adds another layer which is: and “I’m waiting for you to repay it to someone else.” This approach from Rifkin is called generalized reciprocity.
In a 2016 study by research firm QSR, Chick-fil-A’s employees said “please” and “thank you” at a higher rate than their competitors, but they do not say: “You’re welcome.” Instead, they say, “It’s my pleasure.” Chick-fil-A’s employees say this because they believe it is simply more polite and it shows gratitude to the customer.
The practice began more than 20 years ago when the company’s founder, Truett Cathy, stayed at a Ritz-Carlton and was struck by how the employees of the hotel chain always responded to each request with, “My pleasure.” The result was he asked his own employees to start doing the same.ii
Take this week to evaluate how you want your team members to respond when patients say, “Thank you.” Perhaps “It’s my pleasure” will be your answer.