An old banker friend teased me recently about being a guy who uses plumber and lawn-guy stories to motivate bankers.
I smiled and told him that those folks make for more entertaining stories than bankers. And for that matter, so do cashiers, mechanics, farmers, janitors, youth league coaches, truck drivers… (He agreed with me before I could tell him that I was just kidding.)
I’ve long suggested to managers and frontline team members that they should pay particular attention to the various service providers who make the most positive impressions on them.
The purpose of this is not necessarily to directly copy whatever practices or gestures impress them.
But we can adopt the mindset of giving just a little more effort and attention than many customers would expect. And it can often be the seemingly smallest of gestures that accomplish this.
I’d submit that this is because the most powerful message delivered in memorable interactions isn’t necessarily one of “best product” or even “best price”. More often, the more powerful and lasting message is “appreciation.”
To be clear, we, of course, want to be seen as offering great products and services.
But people often have a hard time judging which service provider is discernibly “best” or even who objectively offers the best price.
However, customers can almost always clearly sense the companies that truly value and appreciate their business.
Some businesses’ employees make customers feel like serving them is the required drudgery of their day.
Others show through word and gesture that they don’t take customers’ business for granted.
It may be in their friendly tones or in the sense of urgency they show when working with a customer. It may be in small gestures like smiling and actually using a customer’s name.
Or it may be in thanking a customer for his business each and every time they have an opportunity to do so.
The desire to feel appreciated is a basic human need. Appreciation lets people know that they matter. They count. They belong.
It’s pretty primal stuff. And the people and places that make us feel appreciated provide value to us beyond what is obvious on the surface.
How will your customers feel today?
One of my all-time favorite quotes is credited to an Emory Austin. She said, “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.”
I couldn’t help having that quote pop into my head while in church last Sunday. As the congregation began the first song, I thought someone behind me was clowning.
The woman directly behind me had a loud, shrill voice that startled me. And while I’m not musical enough to tell you which key the rest of us were singing in, I can assure you it wasn’t in the same zip code that the lady behind me was in.
At first, I figured she’d modulate as the song went on or maybe come within range of the right key.
It never happened.
She sang with truly impressive commitment and apparent blissful obliviousness. And what she lacked in tone awareness, she made up for with startling volume.
My younger son looked at me and I stopped him before he spun around to look behind us. (His mind is pretty easy to read sometimes.)
He made a face at me, and I whispered in his ear, “If you can do better, let me hear you.”
When it was time for the next song a few minutes later, the nice lady behind me was as loud and off key as before. And now she was getting some of the words wrong.
Folks in front of us began trying to discreetly look back to see where these rather unique vocal stylings were coming from.
But I noticed something interesting happening when we later got to a third song. People in ours and surrounding areas were singing a bit more enthusiastically than normal.
Folks were singing louder than I could ever remember. Several had slight smiles on their faces.
Now, truth be told, I’d like to think that we were inspired by the commitment and enthusiasm our friend was putting into her crooning.
But it’s just as likely that folks were singing louder in order to hear their own voices in their ears and not hers.
Regardless of the reason, an especially enthusiastic group of singers emerged that day. I don’t know if that lady realized it, but she had become the song leader of our section.
You don’t necessarily have to be the best at an activity to inspire others. Just do it with commitment and enthusiasm, and others will follow.
You may not always feel like it. But lead, anyway.