It would be hard to count how many questions I've received through the years about manned in-store (and in-lobby) displays, registration tables, etc.
Done properly, this practice can increase customer interactions and foster productive conversations. If done poorly, well, not so much.
For the most part, people seem to be more concerned about where in their store (or branch lobby) to set up tables and what kind of marketing is most affective in getting attention.
And that matters.
But two recent observations reminded me that the most important factor is not placement or even the marketing pieces. The most important factor is the outward demeanor and interest in engagement of the team member(s) involved.
I walked into a mega-store this week that had a "Get Your Flu Shot" table in an extremely high-visibility spot not far from the entrance. As I watched, at least 50 folks walk by within a couple of minutes. No one even slowed to investigate.
Sure, you can argue that most people don't flock to needles. However, statistics suggest that many folks do take flu shots this time of year.
But the person working that table acted as though she may have the flu herself. She slouched there with no smile, looking at her smart phone.
She was a lonely island in a steady stream of traffic. And I got the feeling she was okay with that. I chuckled to myself and thought that she surely was not being incentivized by the number of shots given or even by pamphlets handed out.
A day later, I was in a new grocery store in town. It has several stations throughout the store with cooking displays. As I walked within earshot of one, I could hear a woman on a small PA system cheerfully describing what she was preparing in a wok. I then noticed there were no customers there.
But she was smiling and giving a cooking lesson… to no one.
As I began to shake my head, I noticed several other folks looking over. Before long, several walked over and began watching her presentation and interacting with her.
What a shock. When you behave in a manner that shows you actually enjoy interacting with customers, people tend to interact with you. When you give the appearance of indifference, folks tend to readily reciprocate your indifference.
What impressions will you make today?
I read a few facts in a column in Fortune magazine recently that I found to be motivational and pretty telling of human nature. Truth be told, I wasn't expecting to find that in the subject matter.
"Inside the Quiet Giant That Rules the Food Business" was written by David Whitford and Doris Burke. They examined the scope and operations of Cargill, the food industry mega-company.
The column was well-written and informative. But it was a few paragraphs toward the end that had me smiling. When describing Cargill's projects and relationships around the world, they mentioned the rice industry in Vietnam.
Not long ago, the country began shifting from a state-controlled agricultural economy to a more free market one in which farmers are encouraged to work small, private plots for private gain. Before the shift, Vietnam imported a million tons of rice each year.
Last year, it became the world's second leading exporter of rice.
The country's director of crop production stated, "Same people, same land. Before, farmers were not really farmers. They were workers in the fields, and they worked under the supervision of the government."
He credits "free markets" for the dramatic change in production and its resulting transformation in prosperity for Vietnam's farmers.
Now, I would never compare the managerial style of some banks to that of a communist or socialist republic state. Well, okay, I might do it… but I'd be joking. Uh, mostly joking.
Some would argue that the main factor behind the increase in production is purely financial. When people are financially incented, they tend to produce more. I wouldn't argue with that.
However, I would argue that an equally important factor is that people who are empowered to use their individual talents to achieve the results they seek work smarter and are more engaged.
The comments comparing behaving like a worker to behaving like a farmer stuck with me. One is focused on simply doing exactly what he is told.
The other is focused on results, and is willing to put forth whatever additional mental and/or physical effort is necessary to achieve his goals.
Are you behaving more like a worker or a farmer today? As important, are the folks who report to you empowered to "run their farms" as well?