Guest Blog: A Different Kind of Sociability

Have you ever noticed that most customers tend to ignore people who work with the public, treating them like cogs in a machine unless the customers want to complain?

Have you also noticed how most of these customers start off their requests (or what may be more accurately described as demands) with the word “gimme” instead of “please?”

This afternoon, I walked into my local Subway store. I announced to the sandwich artist behind the counter, “It’s great to see you again!” She beamed and the rest of our conversation as she worked went something like this:

Sandwich Artist: “Did you know that I got engaged?”

Me: “No, I didn’t! Congratulations!”

S.A.: ‘Yes, he’s a really nice guy. He’s a tech at a local hospital.”

Me: “‘Really nice guy,’ huh? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

S.A. (laughs): ‘Yes, I could tell you some dating horror stories, if you’d like to hear them.”

Me: “Guess I am lucky I’ve never had to date a guy.”

S.A.: ‘You sure are! Want to see my ring?” (She takes off her engagement ring and hands the diamond-studded arrangement to me.)

Me (waving my hand): “Oh no, I’d probably just drop it. But my, what a rock!”

As we were talking I notice something. The sandwich artist was loading my sub with piles and piles of chicken. There is now enough meat on the bun to fill three sandwiches. As the manager walks by, I begin to feel sorry for the sandwich artist. What will the manager tell her later about giving away all of the profits?

I realized that the sandwich artist was treating me exactly how I was treating her. She was subtly trying to show me appreciation in the only way she knew how, by treating me as a special customer. (By the way, I don’t suggest using this technique as a manipulative ploy. I just do it because I get a kick out of it.)

The Difference

In worker satisfaction surveys over the last 75 years, the number-one complaint of employees is neither wages nor benefits, but rather a lack of appreciation. People don’t work for companies. They work for people. And usually, employees don’t hear from the boss until they make a mistake.

According to Howard Feiertag and John Hogan, authors of Lessons from the Field, studies show that in 68 percent of cases where businesses lose customers, it is because of a lack of appreciation. We ignore our customers to death, so they go away to find someone else who will appreciate their business.

I am sure you have experienced this. You walk into a dry cleaners and the first thing they say, without even looking up at you, is, “Lastname?” You walk in next week, again you hear “Lastname?” You walk in the week after that…never mind, there is no week after that. You have already moved on to another business establishment that you hope will value your patronage. We all want to frequent businesses like the one portrayed in the television sitcom “Cheers,” “where everybody knows your name.”

Why do I mention this? 80 percent of consumer choices are based on personal recommendations. The social media tools we discuss in this column only make it easier for your customers to spread the word about your business virally.

Look at the motion picture industry. How often do you see a film advertised on television a month or so after its release to try to boost attendance? Never. In fact, the first weekend of a motion picture’s release tends to make or break the film. Why? Among other reasons, people are using Twitter to tell their friends about how good or bad the flick is, often right from the movie theater! Your satisfied employees and customers are your best source of advertising period.

But it all starts with you showing both your employees and your customer’s sociability.

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