Putting Others First (It's not about you)

Putting Others First (It's not about you)

Photo: Grentz/Flickr

Menopause. More on that in a moment. Imagine you are a forty year old man and your stylist is out of town but you are in desperate need of a haircut.  Because my stylist was unavailable I considered the barber next door. Then I remembered I am married and my wife tells me that I am happier with a stylist. If she says I’m happier who am I to argue?

I saw a sign advertising the pricing for a man’s haircut so I entered the shop, or salon, or whatever you call that place where women are doing the cutting. The pleasant middle-aged lady with the available chair welcomed me to come have a seat. I accepted her offer and smiled as I sat, hopefully hiding my nervousness. To me it is just hair and it will grow back, but I will face a certain level of scrutiny when I get home. 

In a very pleasant tone she asked me what I was looking for. I told her to just get rid of the shag starting to find it’s way around my head, please. And then she began putting her scissors to work. After a little small talk about the weather she begins to tell me that she has been having hot flashes and that menopause is no joke. 

She chuckled and recounted her episodic mood swings. I was glad that she was on an upswing at that moment as she was holding her sharp and pointy cutting utensil next to my ear. I smiled and chuckled politely in amused understanding.

I must point out to you, that I was not amused nor did I have understanding. I just wanted a haircut. And here I was in her lift chair with no way out, unless I didn’t mind a partially cut head of hair. I thought my wife wouldn’t be pleased if I came home that way so I stayed.

I felt as if the professional was holding the customer hostage- the ransom for a decent haircut was my time and comfort level as I continued listening to her concerns. 

I was unharmed by these events, my wife was pleased with the job the stylist had done done, and I never ever want my regular stylist to take another vacation again. (I'm talking to you Beth Y.)

Unfortunately, this isn’t a foreign experience. I have been subject to many inappropriate conversations by people wanting my business. I just spent an hour on a webinar where the host dropped the "F" bomb at least a dozen times. He was talking to over 600 people about why we should consider partnering with him. Talk about being "unaware". 

We live in a society that puts a premium on “self”- What’s in it for me? How can I make this moment better for me? Listen to me. Allow me to inflict myself upon you.

I get it, life is hard and we all need to be able to vent and get things out of our system. How about not doing that to the stranger who has chosen to spend his time and money with you. That is not a relationally driven experience and it certainly is NOT good for business.

Below are some very practical tips that will help change the face of your business. By employing these tested and proven ideas, people will happily come back to you, again and again. And you will find that your co-workers, your employees and even yourself are enjoying your work in new found ways. 

1)   Don't be overly personal. The Relationally Driven Experience is about creating an environment where the customer in front of you knows they matter and are the reason you came to work today. It’s about setting the stage for the people around you to know they are better off with you in their presence.

It isn’t about you unloading your personal issues on others. As tough as life is for you, the customer has plenty of their own life issues. You have a golden opportunity, every single time, to help ease their burden. At the very least, don't increase the load your customers carry.

2)    Be interested in the customer and their needs. Ask questions pertaining to their reason for coming into your business. Really listen to what they are telling you and respond accordingly. Assure them you are able to meet their needs and if you know you can’t, refer them to the person or business that can. (Check out this post for more.)

If you are going to spend more than a few moments with the customer (such as in a barber’s chair), feel free to ask if they have any good news they would like to share with you. This gives them an opportunity to take their mind off the problems they are facing and an opportunity for you to celebrate with them.

3)    Keep small talk small. Avoid topics that traditionally cause problems at family reunions such as politics, religion, and lifestyle choices that tend to be divisive.  People have different value systems or comfort levels and it is counter-productive to their experience with you and therefore to your business, to tread into those murky waters.

Save the deep conversations for your friends and family. Don’t initiate them with customers. If they initiate with you and it is a comfortable topic, keep in mind your surroundings. Who else is in earshot. Are your opinions likely to engage or enrage your client? If the topic makes you uncomfortable or you are aware that others around you could be made so, simply smile and let the customer know you aren't in a position to discuss the topic and then switch to something else. 

4)    Smile! A genuine smile goes a long way. Not only does it set the stage for your customer's encounter with you, it's been proven to make you feel better. Note the word “genuine”. A fake smile is almost worthless. It says you are “trying” but not much else. A smile says that you are enjoying your surroundings- the people, the job, the overall environment. If you don’t like being there, why would the customer?  (Check out this post for more on your facial expression.)

5)    Love. This is what it all boils down to. A relationally driven encounter has to be about the customer. Love always puts others first and this just makes sound business sense. Unless you are talking about how you and your business can benefit the customer, there is no benefit to talking about yourself, only risk. 

As I mentioned previously, we live in a world consumed with self. Love is the cure to this problem and the awesome side effect is that love is an attractant. People migrate toward where they know they are appreciated. A lifestyle of love is rewarded with more love. We all win.

For my part, I didn’t make the beautician feel bad. I spoke to her with the same care I would want someone to speak with the wonderful women in my life. I complimented her on the job she did and I assured her my wife would be pleased. I smiled and wished her well and even tipped her for the work she had done, although some reading this would question the soundness of that.  

It is my mission in life to make this world a better place, even when I am the consumer who receives less than stellar service. My hope in sharing my experiences is that we will all see an opportunity to change for the better. 

As you read this post, did it remind you of a particular customer experience of your own? Are there additional thoughts or tips you would like to share? Please share them with me in the comments section below. And if it isn't too much trouble, would you consider sharing this post? Thank you.