The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Sunday, November 15, 2015
Volume 21 | # 492
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Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them. » Vaibhav Shah

Terms of Disengagement

While in a hurry, I popped into my favorite small neighborhood grocery store this week to pick up a few things.

As I quickly walked through the automatic doors into the narrow vestibule, I had to stop sharply to avoid walking into a young lady leaning hard against a soda vending machine.

She was staring intently at her cellphone and didn’t look up until I apologized for almost running into her.  As I breezed past, I noticed she was wearing a polo shirt with an energy company’s logo on it.  

I paused and turned around to verify that, yes, she was “on the job” there.  Apparently, she was manning that company’s kiosk a few feet away.

Although I was in a hurry, I found myself stepping back to observe the retailing train wreck before me.  Even when she wandered back to her kiosk, she kept her eyes on her phone.  Customers literally had to steer their carts around her as they entered the store.  
That didn’t faze her much.
Whenever she did take her eyes from her phone, she seemed interested in looking at anything but shoppers’ faces.  I suppose eye contact may have required interaction which may have led to having to actually talk to a customer.
I have no doubt that her company would have been better (and more cheaply) served by an unmanned kiosk with promotional material upon it.  Openly disengaged people are great at warding off those pesky things known as “potential customers.” 
On paper, that company had a staffed kiosk in a high traffic area.  I’m guessing a manager somewhere figures they at least got great exposure on that busy Saturday.  
In reality, that didn’t happen.
I’m also willing to bet someone, somewhere was later told of how slow traffic was in that store.  And if judged by how many customers she actually interacted with, you’d mistakenly believe that.
Some will read this and say, “Don’t let employees take their phones out!”  And sure, in some cases, that’s the right call.  
But I’d suggest that the bigger problem wasn’t with the phone but with the person attached to it.
Maybe her boss should text her every few minutes reminding her to look up and talk to someone?  (I’ve seen it done before.)
You can tell what a person finds important by what he or she pays attention to.  
If anyone was to step back and observe you and your team today, who or what would they suspect you value most?  

Let's Go to the Video Tape

A funny interaction a few weeks back had me reflecting on a favorite subject of mine.  Most folks tend to overestimate just how much people actually know about them.  

In this case, we were out for a (very) late dinner in New Orleans with friends.  While there, a guy from the town I grew up in came up to our table.  I hadn’t seen him in 20+ years.

After introducing our wives and exchanging pleasantries, he asked, “So, Dave…Are you still in radio?”  I chuckled and said, “Well, not for 25 years now.”  

He said, “Aw…man.  That’s too bad.  You were good at that.”  (I think that was a compliment?)  I joked, “Yeah, it’s been downhill ever since.”

I kidded about that interaction for days afterwards.  Then, my wife asked me, “Why on earth would that surprise you?  Do you have any idea what he does for a living?”  

Well, no, I didn’t.  Point made.

That encounter reminded me of a story I’ve shared with manager groups about when I managed my first in-store location.  After 6 months of operating, we were surpassing all goals the bank had set.  

I was pretty cocky about the splash we had made.  It was obvious everyone in this store knew us!  Heck, everyone in town likely knew us!  

Then, as I stood talking to our store manager one morning, a regular shopper walked over to my branch to return rented VHS movies.  (Yes, VHS.  Google it, kids.)  Our branch had replaced the video rental center a full 6 months earlier.  
We looked nothing like a video rental center.  Plus, she had rented those movies from another area in the store.
To her memory, however, our branch was where the video store belonged.  I was just a guy wearing a tie working the video counter.  
Our store manager teased me about that incident for weeks.  But, it was a useful reality (and ego) check for me.
I’ve long reminded people that we should not assume customers are spending much time thinking about us or our offerings.  They’ve got these things called “lives” that keep them pretty preoccupied.  
And there are only so many things any of us can remember at any given time.  Our brains delete most non-essential and non-urgent information we take in each day.  
It’s how we avoid shutting down with “analysis paralysis” each and every day.  
The good news is that customers you’ve seen for years have the potential of seeing you with “new eyes” this week.  
Give them something worth seeing.

When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you. » Lolly Daskal

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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