Channel Your Grandmother – Not Hitler

Be friendly! It seems like a simple enough concept, doesn’t it? But how often do your friends and relatives regale you with a story that goes something like this: “I can’t believe how friendly and accommodating this company was! They listened to everything I had to say, and made me feel special.”

To be fair it DOES, in point of fact, happen. But not nearly as often as you hear, “The guy was a total jerk, I stood there for twenty minutes, he got my order wrong, I couldn’t understand a word he said, he smelled like a rutting musk ox, and he slouched on the counter. Then his thirty-five piercings got caught in his vest and he kept dropping f-bombs, not even looking at me – like I wasn’t even there!” How many times a week do you see or hear rants of THIS sort? If you’re like most folks, then it amounts to more times than is healthy for your blood pressure.

Your interactive customer experience begins the moment you begin communicating – verbally or physically – with a representative of the company. And if you don’t think this is important, and that I’m stating what SHOULD be the obvious, then come here so I can have Weird Uncle Pete poke you in the eye with something pointy, because you’re wrong AND stupid. That’s right: I went there.

Now for those of you sensible folks (and – hopefully – those of you now mortally a’feared of being poked in the eye by some lunatic you’ve never met): listen up. Everything about your person from the time you set eyes upon the customer until the time they are safely out the door is important: VASTLY important. Everything from your body language to your tone of voice can make a customer feel loved and welcomed or, conversely, feel spurned like a pariah in a new and as yet undiscovered tenth circle of Hell. It’s really all up to you.

Let’s begin at the beginning. If you’re on the phone, your voice needs to convey the following:

I’m attentive
I’m easy to understand
I’m friendly
I’m smiling
I know your time is valuable
I’ll get you to your desired end, one way or another – let me worry for you!
I have nothing more to do at this very precise moment than make your life better

If it isn’t, then – congratulations – your competition just scored a point against you. At the machine shop I run, we have a mandatory way of answering the phone. It’s something we pound into each others heads. Why? Because in our industry, 90% of the phone calls that >WE< make are not received with any or all of the above criteria. And – frankly – we like it that way. Why? Because it means were in a minority and, as such, we’ve developed a clear advantage.

Even after the phone is answered, we ASK permission of the caller: if someone could hold, if they would care to speak to the person, or if leaving a message is more convenient, etc. We always make the options theirs to wield as THEY see fit: Dictatorialism isn’t even in our lexicon.

Another thing that sets us apart: we intentionally don’t have voice mail. We hop-to and find the person you want to talk to via radio, and get them on the phone ASAP. Why? Because your time is valuable, and voice mail is counter-productive. Often, I find that my customer’s time is of the essence. And if I’m there to answer a customer inquiry, while they reach a voice mail box at my competition (who may call them back or may be in Tahiti for all they know), I find that they start calling me first. It’s actually a proven fact. Know how I know? Because my customers have actually gone out of their way to tell me how awesome we are to communicate with. Honest to God: it’s true.

When customers – potential or otherwise – arrive at our shop, we greet them with a smile. We shake hands. We offer beverages and a seat. We make and hold eye contact. We make them feel like they’ve just walked into their Grandmother’s kitchen, and they’re the only central focus of our world at the moment. And we treat them as such until the time they leave. Know what else? We do the same for vendors and everyone else. It’s amazing what a little friendliness, kindness, respect, and a smile can bring about. Seriously – you’d be amazed. For example: Our UPS guy likes to use our clean bathroom, he knows who we all are by name, we let him store his ice cream novelties in our freezer, and he has cake with us whenever we have it for someone’s anniversary. For all of this feeling of home, he will wait for packages that aren’t quite ready, or even come back around to us after another part of his run.

One of our steel delivery drivers uses our microwave to heat his lunch up. In exchange, he helps us unload his truck, and will even go out of his way to make us a priority when we desperately need it. Sometimes, he even brings us some of his amazing, homemade, cookies. Neither of these fellows has to do these things – they do so because we treat them very well, and this is how they feel that they may reciprocate.

So, if you’re not doing all of these things then please – for your own sake – do! And more importantly, make sure your employees do as well! If they’re prone to profanity, poor body language, mumbling, or any other negative habits then, for goodness sake, correct them.

Want to take it a step further? Call the office or shop at random, and experience first-hand how the phone is answered when you’re not there. Was it quickly answered? Was the receiver of the call friendly? Could you understand them, or were they giving John Moschitta a run for his title? Did their voice evoke a mental picture of someone smiling, or a Goth kid wallowing in a vortex of apathy?

You can also expound on this idea with the ‘secret shopper’ concept. Have someone you know, but your employees do not, come to the store and, in the aftermath, critique their experience. I can almost guarantee that there’s something happening that you won’t like. And that’s okay! It’s not like your employees are out to screw you (well, not necessarily) – perhaps they just haven’t been taught what is correct, or expected of them. If they’re failing, look to yourself as a manager and proprietor for fault FIRST: Because it’s your gig – not theirs. Blame, unfortunately, begins with leadership. Accept that fact, and you’re on the road to rectification.

Use these tools and tactics and I believe… no, scratch that: I >PROMISE< you will see a difference in your customer’s attitude. And, if you don’t choose to do so? That’s fine – but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.


~ by digitalninjasmedia on December 17, 2011.

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