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.

Treating Customers As Humans

It seems like a painfully obvious statement.

“Customers are human, too.”

But it gets overlooked every day. Many businesses treat the relationship in a way that suggests they think they are the only ones with human needs, emotions, and vulnerability. In the course of the daily grind, we all sometimes forget that the people we are dealing with are facing the same crap we are. The same bosses, same family issues, same barking dogs, same life hurdles, etc.

However, when we DO realize it, we change the way we interact with those wishing to do business with us, regardless of the business we are in. A man named Abraham Maslow studied psychology and Human Actualization throughout his career, creating what is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which we will learn a little about, because it is the backbone of this whole concept of customer service. Basically, it is a list of emotional needs that must be met for self actualization. While there are arguably now more than five, the original five needs are:

PHYSIOLOGICAL NEEDS
You know….the basics of survival. Food, water, clothing, shelter, sex, sleep, and what not. Maslow, considered all other needs secondary to this one. It’s pretty big. I would definitely concur.

SAFETY NEEDS
We all want security, order, protection from the elements (like tigers and hurricanes), law, stability, and freedom from fear. He listed these as the second most important needs to be met. Makes sense to me. How about you?

LOVE AND BELONGING NEEDS
Maslow says that after the above mentioned needs, comes the need to belong. The need to love and be loved motivates behavior in a big way as we have seen played out in both life and in literature. Friendship, acceptance, trust, and intimacy are a part of this group of needs, and the need to be part of a collective is a strong need that should never be ignored. If you do, it will be your peril.

ESTEEM NEEDS
Our buddy Maslow broke this one down in to two categories: (1) esteem of oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (2) the desire for reputation or respect from others). Maslow actually found the needs for respect and reputation were most important for children and adolescents, proceeding self esteem or dignity, although today, there would be there would most likely be a lively discussion about that.

SELF ACTUALIZATION NEEDS
This need involves self fulfillment and personal growth, realizing one’s full potential. Maslow said it was “a desire to become everything one is capable of becoming”.

Look this guy up when you get the chance. Remember my friend Tony in the Grand Canyon? He told us “People spend money to feel good about themselves”. It was a simplified version of “People spend money to have emotional needs met, leading them to feel safe, secure, loved, fed, clothed respected, and fulfilled.”Tony’s explanation was simpler, but you get the point.

Are you going to fill all of these needs in your next transaction with a customer? Probably not, but knowing what they are is the first step in creating a sanctuary for your customers and guests.