Letters of appreciation from customers, colleagues and business associates can be used as a stepping stone to improve customer relations or enhance an existing relationship. While you don't want to get into an ongoing cycle of sending a thank you note for a thank you note in which all you reply is "thanks" and "you're welcome," there are ways to make the most of this exchange.

Show Your Appreciation

If someone thanks you for your time, compliments your product or service or otherwise has something good to say about your company, acknowledge your fan's appreciation with a return message.

Example: Thank you for taking time to recognize the superior service you received from our sales associate, Jane Dell. Your letter of thanks will be recorded in Jane’s employee file and she will be acknowledged at our next employee staff meeting.

Example: Thank you for your kind letter of gratitude regarding the completion of your interior redecoration. We hope you will consider us again in the future for your decorating needs.

The timing of your response should be in-line with whatever internal standards you have for replying to customer queries. If you get back to customer emails in 24 hours, do the same with responding to a letter of thanks.

Enhance Your Business Relationship

If someone writes to thank you for an estimate, a product sample or as a follow-up to a consultation, use the opening to take your business relationship to the next level.

Example: I'm happy to hear you received the sample of our new green cleaning products. I'd be happy to arrange a time to come to your business and provide an estimate of quantities needed for your internal cleaning staff.

Example: I'm glad to hear you received our estimate for your construction project, and that the estimate meets with your board’s financial needs. I would like to arrange a time to meet and discuss a timetable for moving forward with more concrete development plans.

In this instance, the thank you letter you receive is part of an ongoing business deal and should be followed-up on right away.

Provide a Future Incentive

If someone shows appreciation for a product or service, encourage repeat business by offering a freebie or incentive to prompt her to visit you again.

Example: I'm delighted to hear that the catering of your father's retirement party was so well received. Enclosed, please find a gift certificate for $100 off your next party or event.

Example: We were pleased to learn that your automotive repair experience was a pleasant one. Enclosed, please find two free oil change coupons as well as a service coupon to give to a family member or friend. Have him mention your name and we’ll send you a gift card for a free wash and wax on your next visit.

Replies used as marketing tools should be prioritized and sent as soon as possible, just as you would promptly return a call requesting information or to schedule an appointment.