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Dr Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip — The #1 Secret to Better Relationships? Treat The Other Person Like a Customer.

Businesswoman cheering with fists in the air

It was a major turning point in my life.  I had earned the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) and been inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame, along with the likes of President Ronald Reagan, General Colin Powell, and best-selling authors Ken Blanchard and Jack Canfield.  My speaking career was going gang busters.  I was being asked to speak everywhere almost every day.

But in the midst of that fame and success I didn’t realize I had forgotten the most important person in my life … my wife.  I was “too busy” to pay her the attention and affection she deserved.

Of course, I was oblivious to that until one day she turned to me and said, “Would you please just treat me like a customer?”

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would never dismiss my customers until a later time, until when I got around to them.  I would never take my customers for granted.  And I would never half-listen to my customers’ needs.

But that’s exactly what I was doing to my wife.  And her question changed my outlook, my perspective, and my behavior for the better, a great deal better, as well as our relationship.

Of course, I still fall back into that inappropriate, ineffective behavior on occasion.  But whenever I catch myself being less than I could or should be with anyone in my personal or professional lives, I am reminded of my wife’s question, “Would you please just treat me like a customer?” And more often than not, I know exactly what I should do and I do it.

I suspect the same thing would be true of you.  So how can you go about treating everyone in your personal and professional lives like highly-valued customers?

► 1. Greet everyone you meet … enthusiastically.

That’s what the receptionist does at one of the corporations where I speak. She greets everyone who comes through the door or passes by her desk. And she does it with obvious gusto.

In fact, I was so impressed with her communication skills that I asked her about that. Her response? “I’m not just the lady who answers the phone or logs in visitors. I’m the Director of First Impressions.”

How true! The CEO of that organization could probably take a week off and no one would notice. But if she took a week off, everybody would notice and everyone might suffer. So make sure you greet your customers and greet them well.

Avoid the flat, monotone, it’s-really-a-hassle tone of voice. Put some energy into your greeting. Look at your customer. And smile.

The same applies to your home situation.  When you walk in the door after a day’s work, hopefully your partner calls out with enthusiasm, “Hey honey you’re home!” rather than a dull-voiced “Oh, it’s you?”

Unfortunately, too many organizations have salespeople or clerks who don’t even bother to use this very basic communication and relationship skill. These days … you can pay for your purchase at a store without the cashier uttering a single word. And to my way of thinking, that is abominable and inexcusable.

(To dramatically improve your communication and relationship-building, join me on November 16, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. ET for my live webinar on Emotional Intelligence Ramped UpGoing Beyond the Pleasant Smile and the Chicken Soup to Positive Peak Performance. Click here to reserve your seat.)

► 2. Minimize cliché conversation.

Avoid meaningless, worn-out phrases and clichés.

The comedian, Groucho Marx, despised the empty clichés in business correspondence. So one day, when he received a letter from a bank manager that said, “If I can be of any service to you, do not hesitate to call on me,” Groucho decided to take action.

He immediately took pen to paper and sent the following note to the bank manager, “Dear sir: The best thing you can do to be of service to me is to steal some money from the account of one of your richest clients and credit it to mine.”

To demonstrate genuine caring, you need to more creative in your communication than the overused “How are you?” question and the ever-expected “Fine” response.  We do it at work, and we do it at home.  BUT IT DOES NOT BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.

Ask more meaningful questions such things as: “What’s been the highlight of your day so far?” or “What’s something you’ve learned today?”  And then stop … to really listen to the other person’s response.

► 3. DO something that makes the other person feel special.

Take that extra step. Assist your customers with whatever they need … and if you can’t help, find someone who can. DON’T ever tell your customers, “I don’t work in this department … That’s not my job … or … I just started here.” Remember, you can ALWAYS do something to make the other person feel special.

Don’t be like the clerk I met in one of those big box home improvement store.  As I was looking for an item, I saw an employee walking by. I asked the employee for help, to which he responded with a terse “I’m on my break” and kept walking.  I can tell you without equivocation I did not feel special.  I felt like an annoyance.  And such feelings never build relationships.

► 4. Pay attention to the little things.

A little thing may be as simple as thanking a customer for taking the time to come into your store. After all, they could have gone to your competitor’s store or to the Internet to do their shopping.

A little thing may be thanking your customer for doing business with you. If you can believe it, some service reps even fail to follow through on this simple but absolutely critical detail. When Jay Leno told a clerk she didn’t thank him for his purchase, she responded with an uppity, “It’s printed on the back of your receipt.”

A little thing may be noticing and positively commenting on how your coworker has re-arranged his office.  A little thing may be acknowledging the extra effort your partner put into looking nice before the two of you go out for the evening.

People care about the little things and when you (as any employer, a manager, a spouse or a parent) pay attention to those little things, you build relationships with your internal and external customers.  It’s one of the reasons Disney has been so wildly successful for so long.

Take their carousel paint, for example. Each gold-colored carousel part is painted with 23-karat gold-leaf paint. Few cast members can tell the difference on their own, but they know it is 23-karat gold-leaf paint and that’s important to them. It’s a way of letting the Disney employees know that Disney goes all out for its guests/customers.

As one Disney employee put it, “Sometimes cleaning up the carousel is not a pleasant task and we need to be reminded why we do it — for the kids, for our guests. The gold-leaf paint is a very important symbol. You see, it would be easy to do the job halfway and excuse it by saying, ‘What’s the point of paying fanatical attention to detail on something guests won’t even notice?’”

As the employee concluded, “The real gold reminds us that we take care of the equipment, the facilities, the grounds for all our guests, because guests are our true gold, our reason for existence. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t even exist. No guests, no nothing.”

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 960 –  The #1 Secret to Better Relationships? Treat The Other Person Like a Customer.


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