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Monday, August 15, 2011
Volume 17 | # 390
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Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. » Emory Austin

Grape Expectations

My wife and I recently joined a few friends for a trip to the Napa Valley. I didn't expect to be doing much customer service "research" (for obvious reasons).

But I kinda couldn't help it. I am fascinated by how pretty similar operations deliver noticeably different service experiences.

Over the course of a few days, we visited eight wineries. Several establishments were well-known, and several were lesser-known operations suggested by friends and folks with local knowledge.

It didn't take long to begin noticing the difference between folks who treated visitors (customers) like welcomed guests and those who seemed to be tolerating the interruption of their day. Some folks truly enjoyed interacting with customers.

Others seemed to want to quickly spit out facts about what they were pouring and get on with their day.

Some asked lots of questions of us during the process to personalize the experience. One seemed more interested in being the expert dispensing wisdom upon the simpletons. I fought off the urge to tell him I was only about half as ignorant as I looked.

The more customer-friendly operators offered to waive any "tasting fees" with the purchase of their products. Others were rather rigid on charging a fee.

Without fail, we bought more from the folks who "nickel-and-dimed" the least. At the more fee-centered places, we made minimal purchases and simply paid a tasting fee.

The folks more focused on treating us like welcomed guests and less on collecting a nominal fee made considerably larger sales to us. The wineries that treated us like loyal customers soon had us behaving like it. We even joined a few of the friendlier operations' "clubs", committing to have future purchases shipped to us.

Sure, we're not likely to have customers hold our products up to the light to examine them or suggest food pairings with our checking accounts. But the customer service practices of those friendlier wineries are applicable to us, as well.

In the aggregate, customers tend to behave in the manner in which they are treated.

How will customers walking into (or up to) your branch today perceive your culture? Will they feel that their visits are interruptions to your day?

Or will they sense that you realize that their visits, and their business, are what keep your doors open?

Skip the Whine List

I have a long running joke that one of the hardest things about teaching your kids "life lessons" is then following your own advice. 

Sure, I know folks who apparently don't mind the cognitive dissonance created by their words and contradicting actions. But they usually end up wondering why their kids (and family, coworkers, employees, etc.) tend to discount their sage advice.

One of the things that will bring on one of my "Dad lectures" quicker than anything is whining. When he realizes he's earned the lecture, my younger son usually preemptively pleads, "Okay, okay, sorry. You don't have to tell me the list."

What he is referring to is the list of things I begin making of everything he now has that he once wished for, the places he's gotten to go, and the things he gets to do.

On occasion, I've even used the dreaded, "When I was your age…" speech to point out how lucky and fortunate kids are today.

Whether he's simply becoming a really good actor (a useful skill to have, by the way) or is actually having it sink in, it's taking fewer and fewer examples to hear, "You're right. I shouldn't complain."

While on a recent work trip in a major city, I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I wasn't in big danger of missing my plane, but that didn't stop me from thinking evil thoughts about the thousands of people who apparently had nothing better to do that day than get in my way.

I was tired and irritable and daydreaming about how nice it would be not to have to deal with the headaches of travel.

When it dawned on me that this behavior would get my son a lecture, I took a breath. I chuckled at myself and thought, "Okay, I need to review my 'I Appreciate' list."

I also reflected on something I've preached to managers for years: On any given day, the things that are giving us the most stress and headaches are things that we once daydreamed about having.

You longed to become a manager? Congratulations, that comes with "employee issues."

Wanted to travel? Say hello to sleep deprivation, missed meals and crowded planes.

Fought for a job that lets you earn incentives? Great! Here are the expectations and sales goals that go along with that!

The list of annoyances is easy to make. But the list of things you appreciate is almost always longer.

Are you reflecting on the right list today?

We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them. » Elbert Hubbard

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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