What about me?

I have made some interesting observations this summer at the theme park I am a manager at.  You see, we have a gondola that takes you to the park from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, a place with varied weather conditions to say the least.  In the event the gondola closes for long periods of time, we offer bus service up and down a dirt road that comes up the back side of the mountain. On rare occasions, it is not safe to drive it, and we must notify guests that they must remain on the mountain until we can continue gondola service.

Now, I have a question for you. What do you think upsets most guests more? Being told they have to wait their turn for a bus pass, or being told that they must wait on the mountain until the gondola restarts?  The answer may surprise you.

When a guest wants a bus pass that they see someone else possesses, they are filled with questions.

“How do I obtain one?” “How did THAT guy get one?”                                                                                                    “Why doesn’t SHE have to wait?”

And many others. I have been told off so many times, I have lost count. But that’s OK. It’s what I do.  I used to think it was not getting something that made people say unkind things to me. I have come to learn that, in many cases, it is not that at all. It is not getting something someone else IS getting, and wondering why. That’s where human insecurity really comes out.

However, the moment I told a crowd that the rain had mad the road unsafe, and that everyone must remain on the mountain for the time being, they oddly acquiesced, and a sense of calm came over most of them. We turned it in to a party that became a memorable experience. (More on this, later). It’s strange, but that’s when I learned what makes humans more insecure. It was missing out on something someone else had. I would also see this when one guest witnessed me giving rain check tickets to a guest for one reason or another. They would then ask me for one, as well. Until they saw me give a rain check, they had been a satisfied guest. Suddenly they weren’t. I fond it fascinating, and to be honest, don’t really know what to tell you to with the info, other than pondering it when dealing with guests or building promotions for your business.

Be careful when creating new customer offers. They may make your current customers feel alienated, wondering why they were never offered what you are offering new customers. I have found the best way to explain it to them is that you were putting an offer out to increase your business, and if they feel slighted in any way, you would be happy to offer them something they feel is fair, but explain to them that you feel you have earned their business.

Human insecurity is very high right now. What can you do to help your clients feel more secure? It is worth some serious thought.

The Video Screen Over Your Customer’s Head

Here’s a great “what if” for you.  What if your guests and clients walked in with a video screen over their head, highlighting in some way, both good, and bad points in their life and worldly travels? What if you could see some things that made them the humans they are? Would you treat them differently? Would you treat them with either more, or in some cases, less compassion? It’s a big what if, I know, but it’s an important one in dealing with humans.

As I have said in previous posts, I am not here to imply a customer guest’s behavior is justified. But what if you had just a little insight in to why someone is anxious, or impatient, or extremely particular? You may take a step back before becoming upset with them, and formulate an understanding of their needs, even if just a vague one.

That person that wants everything “just right”? maybe they were raised with a ridiculous expectation of perfection. Or possibly they are in a place to make things how they want them for the FIRST TIME in their lives.  What about that client who seems kind of bossy about things? Maybe they spend most of their lives being told what to do by family, bosses, and neighbors, and want to savor a moment of making the rules. As difficult as it can be, taking two steps back and empathizing with what factors created this human who you are dealing with, can not only help you deal with them without losing your sanity, it satisfies an emotional need they may or may not have even known they had. This is why I have that corny slogan “Customer service can save the world”. Those of us in the business of dealing with humans can actually be part of their healing.  And in the end, you have another customer that feels safe and welcome doing business with you.

Some customers are more aware of their emotional deficiencies, and quite consciously attempt to have them filled at your business. They are a unique animal, and sometimes the most difficult to serve, but they should not be discounted simply because of their awareness of those needs. I believe they need you even more, and some will even openly appreciate your attempt to help them with those emotional needs. Some won’t. So rather than decide which ones need you for which reasons, it is best to just treat everyone as compassionately as you can.

It is not necessary for you to know the psychological makeup of your customers. I am not implying that. But if you know that there are things that made them who they are, it becomes easier to compassionately accommodate them. Unfortunately, some can’t be helped, but that should never stop you from trying. And when it comes to that person who is simply too damaged to treat you kindly, that becomes a completely different scenario which I will discuss in my next post, “When And How To Put Your Foot Down “. Until then, give them what they need.

Keep Moving Forward

Hello friends. I have taken quite a break from posting. It was intentional.

I felt that during the pandemic, elections, and daily challenges, we were all just trying to survive, and new information would not be absorbed and learned as it should during this time.

But, due to the stress I see in both the customers in my workplace and the people I encounter daily, I realized that it is time to remember why I started this mission in the first place. While those of us in the business of serving others in some way should not be responsible for the mental well being of the world, I think we can be a place of refuge for those who’s daily dealings do not bring them what they emotionally need.  And when the world does return to “normal”, whatever that means, we can welcome everyone back with open, loving arms and remind them of why doing business with you, and others like you, is not only practical, but makes them feel happy and good about themselves. 

I always believed in a future brick and mortar retail revolution. With Covid keeping us isolated from each other for so long, I now strongly believe this renaissance will appear sooner than I originally expected.  Amazon is not going anywhere, but I believe the movement to buy so many things online will diminish, even if only by modest margins, as people look for others to share the human experience with. And when it does, those of you who have learned what your customers and guests emotionally need will prosper beyond your expectations.

If you are fortunate enough to continue doing business right now, you can start solidifying your understanding of “dealing with humans” in real time. You can experiment with ways to make your customers feel safer, more secure, and welcome at your business. You can talk with your guests to find out things about them. You can train your staff to use their empathy when dealing with your customers. You can employ small changes in how and when you communicate with your clients. It is nuance. Making customers feel needed, welcome, and heard costs nothing but some time.

Right now, we are all just trying to stay afloat. Some businesses will not make it through the months ahead. Some already have folded. But it will get better, and every day you are in business is a day where you can be looking for new ways to employ simple human kindness, empathy, and connection in to your dealings with your customers. And the best things about it is that in most cases, in does not require capital. Only time and understanding of what people just like you need. People just like you.  

I believe that there will eventually be a large number of people looking not only for products, services and experiences, but also real human connection. They will search for things to make them feel whole, safe, and included. Will you be someone who gives them that?

Dealing With Formerly Quarentined Humans.

I have gone for quite some time without a post, not just because of being a bit overwhelmed where I work, but because I am watching an interesting societal phenomenon unfold, and I wanted to see it play out further before commenting.  Now it’s time.

I am beginning this with blatant self promotion. Go back and read all of the posts on this site, because human insecurity and need for relevance are showing themselves at levels many in the business of serving people would agree is alarmingly high. It is easy to quickly attribute it to the Covid outbreak, but I believe it to be more than that. I think the combination of the epidemic, staying at home consuming media at record rates, racial tensions, protests, politics, and more have brought out anger and insecurity that was already there, and current events were simply a signifigant enough catalyst to bring it to the surface.

So now what? It now becomes more important than ever, despite it being more difficult, to remind ourselves of what humans need, even the ones who can become irrational about needing it. They are often the ones who don’t now what they need, which is why we need to breathe, and give it to them. I hope that made sense.  I will however, reiterate that there will be a time, and a customer or guest that simply cannot be rationalized with, and must be dealt with accordingly. I don’t want to imply that you must tolerate everyone because “they are human”. But all of us on the front line need to remember it.

I work at a place that sees 1000-2000 guests a day, from everywhere in the world. Every day is not only a giant sociological experiment, it is a way to see how similar people can actually be in their ego, concerns, insecurities, and such. It is also a place to learn how to deal with them. So far this summer, however, it is often difficult to not just tell a guest what you are really thinking. I have to briefly meditate multiple times a day now, just to get through the situations I am required to resolve between humans. But that’s ok. That is what I am paid to do.

I also have to remind myself that we are often one of the first getaways for a family that has been stuck in a house together for three months. That in itself presents challenges.

All of us “front liners” have a challenging time ahead of us. I hear a lot about the financial impact of this pandemic we are experiencing, but not much about the emotional toll it is taking on all of us. To all of you out there dealing with humans every day, my hat is off to you.  Keep up the good work, and please share some of your stories with me. I would love to hear how you are dealing with humans.  My email is don@dealingwithhumans.com.

Dealing With Customers During Covid-19

I had not intended to write any Covid-19 specific posts here, but an incident my teenage son had at a local convenience store changed my mind.

He was at right off of the freeway in my lovely town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My son went into pay at a chain gas station and convenience store and inadvertently left his face mask in his car. Upon entry to the store the store clerk yells “Get the hell out of here without a mask”. He sheepishly went to his car, genuinely feeling bad for forgetting the mask, but also upset at the clerk screaming at him, causing the other customers to stare him down, as well.

Here’s where you can call me “Karen”. Rather than go down and chat with him, which my son would have not approved of, I called the store manager, and simply asked her to brief her front line on compassionately dealing with that situation, a situation which is repeating itself all over the country. It was a positive chat, ending with her assurance she would discuss the issue with all of her staff, and not just the clerk in question. I DO NOT want the guy in any trouble. I am not one of those people. I deal with “Karen” every day at the adventure park I work for. I understand we are all at a very high stress level right now, but that kindness is more important than ever. 

Is your business still serving customers? If this is the case, my hat is off to you and your staff. It is a very stressful time. How is it going with your staff? It is certainly a time for you all to be on edge. But it is not the time to lose focus on humanity. You have an opportunity to show your customers you are confidently dealing with the situation, and part of that is KINDLY telling them to wear a mask before they enter your business. It is not something that has to have a negative connotation at all. You merely explain to them that you are protecting them, your staff, and virtually everyone else by wearing one. Explain to them why social distancing rules in your business are for them, as well as everyone else. If you do it with confidence and love most will receive it well. Those who do not get it do not get to come in. Explain to your front line that they can present it as a customer benefit, rather than making it sound like another “rule”. As I have written here before, and will again, there is a way to say everything.

For those of you who are closed, my heart truly goes out to you. What can you do between filling out government paperwork and being on hold with the IRS? You can find unique ways to stay in touch with your customers, clients, and guests. Hopefully you make some effort to keep track of them, and if not, will change that. Reach out in some way to remind them you are thinking of them. Messages of support through social and traditional media go a long way. You don’t have to be selling them anything. You can merely stay on the top of their mind by communicating with them in some way during your closure.

The road ahead is an uncharted one, but if you are to stay in business, communicating honestly, kindly, and effectively with your customers whether at your business or not, will make all the difference.

What Do You Want To Tell Your Customers Right Now?

Are you sitting and thinking of all the things you want to say to your clients when things return to “Normal”? If you had not already told them how important they are, not just to you, but the world, how are you going to do that when they come back? For those businesses financially solvent enough to even make t through this, how are you going to do things differently if and when those customers, guests, and clients are ready to return to society.

Go back and read previous posts and remember the reasons people spend money.  Say it with me. “To feel good about themselves”.  How do you think they feel right now, stuck in their homes with their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy?  When they do return, their need for validation, love, and acceptance will be stronger than ever, and you can be ready to fulfill that need by taking inventory of how you treat your customers. You may be a rally nice person, who, for the most part, has no trouble interacting positively with customers. This not about that. This is about taking a step back and asking yourself what you want when you return to daily life. That’s exactly what your customers want.

Now, I realize one could argue not everyone wants the same things. They obviously don’t. But when it comes to the desire to fulfill emotional needs, we all do need basically the same things. How we achieve them is what separates us.  Now is the time to map out a plan to your front line, illustrating the principals learned here at Dealing With Humans, to give them what they need when they return.

If you are fortunate enough to have mailing lists or other access to your customers, communicating with them now, if you can, is a really good idea. It may be a newsletter. or an advertisement. Or a column in your local paper.  Depending on your customer relationships and the nature of your business, if you can call them individually and check up on them with no other motive, that will mean a lot. Stay in touch with them so they know you care even when they can’t give you their money.

The need for security and comfort will be greater than ever for your clients. Do they already know you are there for them? If so, outstanding. If not, decide what you can do to change that TODAY. Just make it sincere. Do not overthink what you want to say. Usually a first draft tends to be from the heart, so keep that in mind when overthinking it. Then decide the best way to disseminate that information and get it out.

As stated in the last post, have always believed there would bean eventual return to brick and mortar, face to face business, and I think this crisis may accelerate that time line. It is important your front line is ready for that, because it you are ready when they return to have their needs, both conscious and unconscious, met, they will win and so will you.

Customer service can change the world.

Connecting In The “Post Virus” Economy

For quite some time now, I have believed that eventually, after growing weary of the faceless void that is online shopping and, we will return to a time where face to face business will once again thrive. When that time comes, I also believe that social media will lose some of its luster and people would get around to coexisting in person.

And I am convinced that evolution will be jumpstarted just a bit with all of this virus rigamarole (I love that word).

I believe that retail will become retro, like your kids thinking The Doors and Led Zeppelin are cool. We will, either consciously or unconsciously realize that many of our emotional needs only be satisfied through human interaction. I long for that day, but while we are waiting, how about preparing yourself for the return of humans to your business?

They WILL come back, and I think the will come back in droves. They will be looking for what they LIKE about human interaction and hoping to avoid what they do NOT like. Are you and your staff prepared for the ultimate opportunity to build your business around making people feel good about themselves? Now is the perfect time to take an inventory of your assets and liabilities from the standpoint of whether you are a “human friendly” business. Take a look at everything from the physical appearance of your space, to the way your staff has been trained to communicate with each other as well as with customers and guests. Does it feel safe? Would you feel welcome as a customer in your business?

While these are things we should practice every day, life gets in the way of that. Now is the time to take that inventory, decide what your story is, and decide how your story coincides with the stories of your clients, customers, and guests.  Your business may or may not be closed right now. If it is, stay connected to your staff so you can have a plan when the doors open again. A plan that includes making your guests feel special, validated, and welcome in your business. You may be doing a great job already, but at least take the time to evaluate yourself and your staff. 

When humans return to the streets, even the ones who are more introverted will be eager to connect in some way, and the more opportunities you create for that to happen, the more likely you will thrive in the “Post Virus” economy. Your ability to connect on a deeper level with your customers will b crucial in establishing your business from here on out.  This was evident following the economic consequences of 9/11.  People returned to businesses both weary but eager to return to normal, and human connection helped them do that. Many businesses that recognized that phenomenon are still successful today. While it sounds like a cliché, it is true. We WILL get through this together.

I would love to hear your stories of how you make your customers feel good at your business. Email me at don@dealingwithhumans.com. Tell me what you are doing to recognize the importance of real human connection.

Do You Give Your Customers A Sense Of Security?

I have a question. Do you help your customers, clients, and guests feel secure?  I know. That’s a funny, yet loaded question.  I am not talking about security in the sense of keeping them safe from harm, or keeping their private data safe, although those things are very important. I am talking about a sense of security.  Remember the mantra. “People spend money to feel good about themselves”. Part of feeling good about yourself is minimizing personal insecurity, and you can play a role in minimizing that insecurity in your place of business, even if that place of business is a conference or board room. It does not have to be a hotel or store, or retail outlet. Your “space” for your customers is what you want it to be.

Right now, your “space” is probably closed, but it won’t be closed forever. When it’s open again, it will be even more important to “connect” with people.

So, when your customers are in your “space”, how do they feel about things? (No, I do not think that bump your head took on the kitchen cabinet this morning did not suddenly give you mind reading powers). I am talking about you creating a space, (see my earlier post http://dealingwithhumans.com/creating-a-sanctuary/), where customers feel comfortable in their own skin, because you have created a place where they are confident some of their emotional needs can be met, and they can be themselves in the process. 

The biggest way to achieve this at your business is by taking an inventory of how you deal with others, whether they are your customers, friends, or heaven forbid, relatives. Do you speak in a way that makes people comfortable? Nervous? At ease? Do you have conversations that bring out the best in those around you?

As a young event manager, I was often told I looked intense, and it made people feel as though I was concealing that something bad was happening. It wasn’t. I was just an intense manager, who was actually happy inside, and until it was brought to my attention, I had no idea I looked this way.  I often spoke with great urgency, as well, leading to the same assumptions by others. With a combination of working on it, and mellowing over time, I rarely have that issue any more, but still sometimes it pops up in an elevated situation, which can happen in my business, and very likely, yours.  What do you do that may make someone feel uncomfortable, even though you mean nothing by it? Maybe nothing, but it is good to inventory these behaviors once in a while to stay connected.

Another thing you can do to help others feel secure is what the entire “Dealing With Humans” lessons are based upon. Empathy.  When someone believes you sincerely appreciate their situation and needs, they are much more comfortable, and, in turn, much more likely to do business with you. When the turmoil from our COVID-19 situation abates, people will be even more insecure than normal, and it will take effort and sincerity on your part, to help them with that insecurity. Whatever you do, make it real.  Capitalizing on this pandemic in a trite way will not end well for you. Let your clients know that you are still there for them.

Let your customers know you are there for them. Be sincere, but more importantly, be present. That is how you connect with humans.

Today Is The Day

When I was young, on the night before going to Disneyland, it was far harder to find slumber than it was on Christmas eve. I wanted to sleep so badly, so the morning would come sooner. The moment my eyes opened on that long anticipated morning, I said to myself, “Today is the day”.

I work at a Wild West themed Adventure Park in Colorado, helping to manage daily operations. I think about that day every single day I am at work. As each child enters the park, I am transported back to that exciting time in my life. Back to that day that I thought would never come.

I am certain, at this point, that you are beginning to wonder what this means to your business. Stay with me.

People love to anticipate things, especially special purchases. These could include something as expensive and exotic as a vacation or new car, but it is important to remember that this level of euphoria can also accompany smaller purchases, especially from demographics where money is not growing on trees, or there is a sentimental attachment to the purchase. Regardless of the reason for the increased excitement, recognizing and accommodating these moments for your clients or guests is instrumental in creating the sanctuary I have written about in an earlier column.

After being in business for a while, it is easy to see a transaction as just that.  A transaction. We rarely contemplate the emotion that was, or still is involved with a purchase, so it’s a good idea to assume that it is. So how, you may ask, do you treat the transaction differently with this knowledge?

One thing you can do is savor the moment or purchase with them, especially if there is no one else to do so. Assure them of their decision, and revel in their “moment” with them. While this is especially important with children, adults also like to have others celebrate their little victories, and often their purchase or experience is that victory. This also gives you another method, and another reason to connect personally with the customer, which is the entire point of dealing with humans.

This comes back to helping people feel good about themselves, and sharing n the parts of their life that are important to them is such an invaluable way to show your clients and guests that you care about them as humans, and you want them to be happy. What was the last purchase or experience you anticipated, and got more excited about as the day approached? Take yourself back to that moment, and ask yourself if it lived up to the anticipation. If the answer was yes, it was most likely because you had others sharing your moment with you, whether they were friends, or someone at the place you were spending your money. If the answer was no, and the moment did not live up to your expectation, it is very likely because these elements did not end up being a part of that moment. Things often do not live up to the hype you, or others have created, but the transaction does not have to be a reason for that. If you strive to make it the part the customer or guest remembers favorably, your mission in dealing with humans will be a successful

What A Rock and Roll Concert Teaches Us about Dealing With Humans

rock and roll

In producing live music shows, you quickly learn about dealing with humans. From an audience perspective, it seems pretty simple. A bunch of people pay money, (sometimes a considerable amount) to see someone perform for them.

As a producer, it is not remotely close to that. Remember how we talk about your customers emotional needs being met? At a concert, the “customer” is not just the ticket buyer. It is the artist, the caterer, the driver, and the vendors. Everyone involved in the show has similar needs to be met.

First you have the audience member. They don’t just want to see an artist perform. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, experiencing something others are sharing with them. They fulfill the need for safety and esteem, as well as the need for love and belonging when attending a live performance.  The proof of this is the amount of money some will pay to go to a show. They want to feel good about themselves in a concentrated dose.

The artist themselves have similar needs. They may be paid an alarming amount of money to play, but they still have the same emotional needs those audience members do.  In some cases, they may even be household names, but they still need the same thing you do, like love, acceptance, safety, and esteem. We all have heard and seen stories illustrating the insecurity of many in the entertainment business, especially regarding the talent themselves. It’s mostly true, and that’s ok. We are human, and we can be insecure, especially when we are scrutinized by many people.

With that being said, a good performer makes the audience feel as though they are a part of something special, and recognize the needs the audience came with when they perform. Those are the gems, and I love working with them.  I am not going to be a name dropper, but I worked with a very famous blues man over the years who was one of the dearest, kindest people I have known. One night, a number of people assembled outside his bus, appearing to be planted there until they could meet this legend. I apologetically told him I would get rid of them, and he responded, “Let them on the bus, five at a time.”

“Excuse me, sir?”, I asked. “We will be here for two hours.”

He smiled and said, “Those people are why I am here. They came to feel special, and I want to make sure that happens.” He proceeded to meet everyone, ask their name and where they were from, give them a signed photo, and thanked them for coming. The thrill appeared at first to be for them, but I soon realized it was for him, as well. Everyone getting what they need is the best end to a transaction.

The vendors, caterers, security, and others involved in the production have those needs, as well, and the producer who understands this will go far. One of my mentors, Christopher, ran Red Rocks for the City of Denver for years. He is a kind, but assertive Texas boy who had a knack for making everyone involved in the production feel as though the show would not have happened without them. He gave them what they needed, and they would take a bullet for him.

Why am I telling you this? Reminiscing is a joy, but the point of this story is if you treat your interactions with client, guests, and customers with this in mind, you will give them what they need, every time you see them.   

Empathic customer service and Rock and Roll can save the world. Turn both of them up to “11”.