The Power Of The Words “Of Course”

Over the years of my customer service journey, I always enjoyed being able to answer “Yes” to a guest question. First of all, no one likes being told “No”. “We’ll get to that in a moment.

But years back, as a manager at a Colorado cave and theme park, I dealt with a litany of both guest and employee issues over the course of the day. In some cases, I was being called to help a guest with a problem or question, but many times it was staff, many of whom were younger and shy around management. On my first week, I decided that when I arrived to deal with an issue, the first words out of my mouth were always” How can I help”. These are very disarming words that fit virtually any situation you are called upon in customer service, or with staff. They even make sense when you arrive with no information as to what the situation is about.  “How can I help” can open any customer situation positively. But I digress. This was supposed to be about the words “Of course”.

When these staff or guests asked me any question that could be answered with “Yes”, I used “Of course” most of the time. Why? What difference does it make? The power of the words “Of course” enthusiastically coming out of your mouth, says so many things. It emphatically says “Yes”, for starters, but it says it in a way that appears as though its important for you to help them, and you know it. It says that you are genuine, in that you are happy to assist. It conveys that you take your profession seriously.

There is a good, and not so good way to say anything, but these examples are paramount in customer communication. They create the safe space I have written about earlier, and help to create a welcome environment in your business. Taking the time to choose your words, and avoid the same customer service “pickup lines” we’ve heard for years, does wonders in creating a place your guests or clients want to be in, bringing them back to you, when they have so many choices.

Other examples may be things like choosing “I am afraid we are out of that item” instead of, “No, we don’t have that”. You may say “For an additional $_____, I can add that”, versus “That will cost more”.  Telling a client that something they want is not possible is much easier if you tell them in a way that conveys the benefits of the alternative to what they wanted. Never just say “NO”…….NEVER! In fact, make a game out of figuring out how say “no” without using the words. Take some time with your front line to talk about these words and the effect they have.

There are countless ways you can come up with to say the things you say every day. In a way that separates you from the pack, and makes it clear to your guests, that you truly do care about their purchase experience. Can you do it?  OF COURSE!

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”.

Give Them Something Extra

What little thing stands out about businesses you like to patronize? Do they make you feel special? Do they go out of their way for you?

People remember the craziest, most trivial stuff when it is associated with them feeling special. It stays with them longer than a simple, even very successful transaction.  How do you make your customer feel this way?

It is not difficult, especially if you understand those emotional needs we keep referencing.  After a while, it is second nature to know how to make a guest or customer feel like they got something more than others did.  We have seen countless examples of people PAYING to get something others did not. If this was not true, we would not have had VIP sections at every live event I ever produced. People want to feel special and relevant, and you can do it without a VIP section.  It was full of people that wanted to feel thy were part of something extraordinary and exclusive. 

I know. Not everyone needs to feel elite. Some do, though. Trust me on this. I was part of so many events in Aspen, Colorado, I know there is a part of the population that wants to be treated exclusively. However, your customers don’t need an ice sculpture or unlimited cocktail shrimp. They just need to feel a little special. They need to feel appreciated, and you can do little things to make them feel like they are apart from the rest. It’s not that hard.

It can come in the form of something complimentary. It can be an extra doughnut. Free delivery. A piece of pie. Or a free month subscription. In this department, a little goes a long way, and what you do depends on a lot of things. It is more often the gesture than the item itself, and a customer will NEVER forget getting something free. Never. And if surprise them once in a while, they will keep coming back.

You don’t have to give material things away. You can:

  1.  Give advice, tips, and professional insight to a customer that has them leaving feeling like an “insider” in your business.
  2. Making your interaction with the guest a little longer than you customarily do can help to let them know you truly care about them as a human, and not just a customer.
  3. You can invite them to a pre-sale event before the general public has the opportunity to see your new inventory or business.
  4. Let them in some background information about a product or service, or take them “behind the scenes”.
  5. Offer them something from another business you may have influence at, or trade with.
  6. Simply be there for them.

If you choose one special way to connect with each of your clients or guests, after a short time, this becomes a part of the way you deal with humans. And that is when the magic happens. When it becomes a part of the way you deal with every human you encounter, in or out of your business, customer service can save the world with. It can be done. It is not just a tag line.

Customer service can save the world.

Creating A Sanctuary

No Fields Found.

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:

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.