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Don’t Send Your Thank-You Too Soon!

Yesterday I visited a professional-service company I’ll call Glow and bought one of Glow’s services. I filled out the new-customer form, gave it to the receptionist, and sat in the waiting room to be called by the Glow consultant assigned to me. As I waited, I checked my email on my phone.

I found that I had received this email from Glow:

Subject: Thank you for your appointment


Thank you for visiting us. We hope your experience was a positive one and that you will be returning to see us soon. . . .

If you have any questions or would like to provide feedback to us, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us at your convenience.

Thank you,

Glow Customer Service

I always appreciate a sincere thank-you for doing business with a company. But how sincere could the thank-you be when the receptionist apparently launched it from “Glow Customer Service” before I had even walked across the room?

If I were to receive a specific thank-you from the professional who worked with me, I would appreciate it and would reply with my thanks to her. However, the generic, premature message felt phony and meaningless.

You may often write thank-yous to help build relationships with customers, coworkers, and others. Those message need to be sincere and specific. Of course, that requires sending your thanks AFTER you complete the transaction, receive the requested information, or benefit from another person’s excellent service.

Have you experienced anything like my ill-timed thank-you from Glow?


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

13 comments on “Don’t Send Your Thank-You Too Soon!”

  • I would venture to say that this is primarily an issue of Glow Customer Service management not recognizing the way technology has evolved and become much more instant and accessible at all times.

    Even just a few years ago, it is likely that most customers were not able to check email on a cell phone while waiting in the lobby, so unless the customer looked at the timestamp on the email once he or she checked it at a computer, the fact that it was sent before the service was provided would probably be missed.

    I also think this is an issue with automatic emails that are set to go out in the middle of the night or early in the morning. In the past, this was a non-issue, but now, it can be irritating to have your phone light up, vibrate or sound a chime at 3:48 AM because an email about the sale at JCPenney just came through. (Of course, this is why I use the Do Not Disturb feature on my iPhone from 11 PM to 7 AM!)

  • Hi, Lisa Marie. No doubt you are correct that the system for communicating with customers has not kept up with people’s instant access to messages. Every so often companies need to review their automatic messages to make sure they still communicate well.

    So you don’t need to know about JCPenney sales at 3 a.m.?

    As always, thanks for commenting.


  • Martha, interesting example! I can understand that a parent of a new baby would be short of time and energy, so the envelope addressing makes some kind of sense. Maybe the task could have been presented differently so it felt more right to the shower guest/gift givers.

    I have heard similar stories for wedding showers, but in those situations it does come across as lazy and insincere.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  • “Maybe the task could have been presented differently so it felt more right to the shower guest/gift givers.”

    I think Lynn’s got something here. If the parents-to-be had asked their guests to pre-address envelopes in order to receive a little note about the new baby (or, if they felt like being very cute, a letter *from* the baby), the task might have been received differently. There are always different – sometimes better – ways to frame things, in business and in life, I think!

  • Sorry if this continues to take the thread off-topic, but in my experience, it’s the hostesses giving the shower that are likely the ones asking you to address your own envelope in hopes of making the mother-to-be’s life easier. The new mom may not even know it’s being done, so be careful blaming her for being lazy! It’s certainly not a safe assumption in every case.

    Lynn, I recently received a thank-you email for information I had not yet given. If it had been worded as a “thank you in advance” note, it would have sounded better to me!

  • I hear what you’re saying, Lynn. On the other hand, I wish more companies had Glow’s problem of being too prompt with their courtesies. 🙂

  • I can imagine a worse scenario along this vein: You are a job candidate. After signing in and while waiting patiently for your interview, you get the email that starts with “We appreciate your interest in XYX Corp, however….”

  • Hello, Marie, Michele, Jim, and Sandra. Thanks for stopping by.

    Marie and Michele, thanks for your thoughts about the baby shower thank-yous. I am always happy to come to the aid and defense of infants’ parents. Michele, I am wondering why you received the thank-you before providing the information–weird!

    Jim, thanks for the job-candidate scenario. That WOULD be unfortunate.

    Sandra, I will wait until I am finished working with Glow to provide the feedback. Thanks for asking.


  • Lynn,

    When I order items from entrepreneurial sellers on Amazon or eBay, I am sometimes requested in an imperious tone to provide positive feedback on the transaction after the item’s receipt. I find this annoying. Like your example, the request is mistimed because I have not received the package yet. If the request is on the packing slip and is less presumptuously phrased, then I am happier to comply.


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