I always find it interesting that when I drive my truck down the two-lane back roads near my house and a vehicle passes me, 99% of the time that driver raises a pointed index (index, not middle!) finger off the steering wheel in simple acknowledgement. It took a while for me to get used to it, but now I do the same thing.
Satisfying customers is a never-ending task that seems to be focused on an ever-moving target. I’ve created and facilitated programs for multiple industries and they are all different and special in their own way. However there is ONE THING you can do that guarantees a better customer experience for your customers. Do this ONE THING and the rest of the experience will be much better. What’s the ONE THING? Read on…
Recently I went to a pool and spa store to buy some chemicals and test strips. The counter was busy with clerks running around, bumping into each other. Customers were waiting in line and the scene was pretty chaotic. Finally I was next in line. I put the products on the counter and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Until I got tired of waiting and walked out of the store, pulled up my Amazon app and ordered the same chemicals and test strips at a slightly higher price with free shipping and drove off. The problem? Nobody acknowledged I was standing there at the counter. For 10 minutes!
Now before you call me an arrogant, entitled SOB, keep in mind I didn’t yell at anyone. I stood there patiently waiting. Nobody looked at me and said, “We’ll be with you in just a moment.” That’s what I was looking for. Just SEE me.
So, fresh off that experience I drove down to our dry cleaners to pick up my daughter’s bed spread. When I walked in, I saw the clerk was doing a fitting on a customer. I was in a hurry and figured this was going to be another long wait. THEN, the Korean guy who was ironing in the back of the shop saw me and ran, RAN up to the counter to tell me they would be right with me. I waited maybe 3 minutes and then the clerk handed me the bed spread and I was on my way, ironically to teach a customer service workshop at a local health care organization.
In my experience, what separates great organizations like Southwest Airlines, National Car Rental, Hilton Hotels, and the local dry cleaner in Clarksville, TN from losers like United Airlines, Enterprise Car Rental, and the DMV is the simple act of acknowledging the customer. Everything else springs from that event. Whether you can or can’t help the customer, that initial acknowledgement sets the tone for what happens next.
Just like that simple raising of the index finger on the steering wheel, acknowledging someone lets them know that you, at a minimum, value them as a fellow member of the human race. Imagine if you went out of your way to make that customer feel like they’ve been SEEN?
This week, make an effort to acknowledge your fellow humans, especially the ones you call your customers. I know it will make a difference.