Connect By Being Present

How “present” are you with your customers? Do you make eye contact? Do you go beyond answering a question with any descriptive words or observations?  Your presence can create a true human connection in the simplest of circumstances.

I was at a company Christmas party last week.  I asked the bartender what red wines they offered by the glass.

“Cabernet or Merlot”, the young man said, in a monotone voice while looking at his coworker.

He did answer my question, but he was not present.  He saw his job as getting me what I needed quickly, so he could do the same for the next customer.   He also clearly did not want to be a part of my world. I returned for another glass of wine later on, and a new bartender was there.  Being who I am, I asked him the same question, obviously already knowing the answer.  

“Well, sir. We have both a California Cabernet as well as Merlot from the same winemaker.  You will be having Prime Rib tonight, so I think the Cabernet is the way to go.”

I felt a connection with this man that I did not feel with the other. Same transaction. Completely different result in human needs being met. My basic need for the glass of wine was just one need I subconsciously wanted met.  The second bartender made me feel good about myself, and my purchase, simply by connecting with me on a level that went beyond just answering my query.  Did that second glass of wine taste better?  Probably not, but I felt good about spending my money the second time around, where the first was a simple transaction to meet my physiological needs. The second exchange only took five more seconds.  Five seconds.

The difference between those two scenarios is what will separate you from the others. You can look at it as being subservient, or you can look at it as enhancing another’s life. The choice is yours. Choosing the latter will result in your happiness as well as the customer’s. This is not just about making them happy. It’s also your well being at stake. Everyone wins when you provide a connection.

It’s easy to forget we are facing people at our businesses with the EXACT same needs we have. It’s easy to see a transaction from an efficiency standpoint, and with that comes the lack of connection.  But it does not have to be that way, even if efficient transactions are your goal.  It only takes a moment to turn a mundane exchange into a meaningful connection between humans, with both parties needing the same thing.  People are longing for connections rooted in empathy and understanding. You have the opportunity to be one or more of those important connections.  Why wouldn’t you?

It’s not difficult to make a connection in even the simplest of exchanges.  And when you do, the customer or guest remembers how it made them feel. I guarantee it.

Creating A Sanctuary

The length of time you spend with a customer or guest obviously varies with the type of business relationship you have. If you are in certain types of sales, the relationship evolves over time., while if you are in retail the length of time you spend with a customer is comparatively short. Regardless of the length of your relationship with the customer, making the most of that time to make the customer feel good about where they are is what will be your biggest advantage over those who do not.

I work in an environment where guests stay for four to eight hours, giving me a chance to watch their comfort level change over the course of the day. It gives me a great advantage in identifying the things that customers respond to when creating a place in which they feel safe, validated, and comfortable. Whether you have that advantage or not, you have opportunities to connect with the guest in a way that makes them feel those things. Even if the relationship lasts a short time, you can help meet their emotional needs with your interaction. No, you’re not a psychologist (unless you happen to be a psychologist who is reading this), nor are you expected to be, but you can make positive human connections in a short period of time.

Let’s say your interaction lasts three minutes or less. What the heck can you do? Well smiling is always the best way to start. It is welcoming, and the start of any good relationship. You can let them know you appreciate them, or that they have made a smart purchase. And something as simple as telling someone to have a good day, in a way that is sincere, can make someone more at ease and willing to return in the future. This is a great discussion to have with your front line staff in the future. Maybe tomorrow?

If your sales interaction is longer, you have more opportunities to truly connect with that person as a fellow human, sharing interests, discussing their purchase decision, and developing a real relationship with them that makes them comfortable when they are at your business.

That moment a guest realizes they are in a safe, welcoming place is a great moment to witness in business. It means a good things for everyone involved.

However, if you make your business a place of sanctuary from the sometimes cruel world, you create not only more business, but more community. And communities are places people have a real need to be a part of these days.

The Non Business (Human) Lesson: Your relationships may vary, not only with whom, but how much time you get to spend with them. Make that time, no matter how long or short, significant. Make real connections with them. That’s what matters with humans. It matters a lot.