Customer Service Can Save The World

I am going to come right out and say it. Customer service can save the world.  I know, it’s kind of a ridiculous thing to say, but I believe it. Some in the business of hospitality, sales, retail are only nice to you so they make money, but I want to believe that the majority of us in the business of taking care of peoples needs like being kind to others and helping find solutions to their problems.  This is where we come in.

Modeling of kind, civilized behavior has to start somewhere. Parents, obviously play a role in this, but society could prove that some did not put much effort in to it.  That being said, those of us who are kind to others for a living can model kindness and respect back to our customers.  It literally starts with us. That is what inspired me to begin this blog journey.  You can show the world how it’s done, because you are sometimes as much a part of our customers lives as anyone, depending on your business.  I know, it’s an incredibly idealistic thought, but I stand by it, and want to be a part of the change in how people treat each other.

Next time you have a difficult customer or guest, remember the way you handle it can not only diffuse the situation, but model to EVERYONE that witnessed it, how to kindly and eloquently handle a difficult situation. It will reflect on your business, and show others ways they can handle a similar situation in their future. Crazy thought eh? That you could teach kindness just by being kind? You can. You are one of a zillion interactions your customer is going to have today, but they take notice when you stand out as one that evolved from and interaction to a CONNECTION.

It’s not hard. Simply put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What will make you feel good about yourself and the business you are in? We all get motivated by similar things. I know, you are an individual. But humans still are the same in a lot of ways, and when you let customers know you are aware of that, and that you care about them as a person as much as a you care about them as a customer, you’re not just giving them what they want. You are giving them what they need.

Give them what they need.

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.

Welcome to Dealing With Humans

In over 40 years of customer service, if I have learned one thing, it is that there are those who see customers as customers, and those who see customers as humans.  There is a big difference.  A big, BIG difference. Over the years, the number of businesses in the latter category has diminished significantly.  If you don’t think so, tell me why Amazon is so popular? 

American business spends a bunch of money on stuff. Take a a product launch, for example.  Thousands, if not millions are spent on marketing and Public Relations, thousands more for design, packaging, and presentation of a product. Thousands more on CRMS software to maintain relationships with customers. And, at the end of that chain, that glorious point in which you make human contact with the customer you worked so hard to obtain, is a minimum wage employee with little training, and possibly little desire or incentive to establish, or maintain a customer relationship.

Over 40 years, I have served, or catered to in some way, Presidents, vacationing families, rock stars, cowboys, retired couples, kids, sports fans, concertgoers, and people from virtually every walk of life, and they all wanted to walk away from the experience with the same things, whether they were aware of it, or not. No matter what socioeconomic group they were from, their expectations and demands were driven by the same human needs.   

When I worked at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon in the late 80’s, I had a roommate named Tony. He was a Detroit Italian who was one of the best waiters I have ever met, and he once told me, “No matter what they are buying, people spend money to feel good about themselves, and our job is to make sure that happens.”  At first, I did not agree. I thought it was an oversimplified statement, but over time, came to realize that it is absolutely true. 

Repeat what good ole Tony said to yourself now, because it is the underlying mantra of this whole program. People spend money to have emotional needs met, whether they are aware of it or not. A pack of gum? A nice meal? A new boat? It doesn’t matter. Yes, they want the materialistic outcome, but the act of the purchase is to satisfy needs not met elsewhere.  As soon as retail, hospitality, and all sales front lines realize this, the process of creating and keeping customers becomes a whole new ball game.  This information is game changing.  Ask someone why they shop Amazon, and they will most likely tell you it’s about price and convenience.  It’s not. Those are only two of many emotional needs people need met in a purchase, and the dismal state of customer service has left consumers accepting that maybe that is the best they are going to get…price and convenience. This is where brick and mortar can always win if you remember why people buy in the first place.