I tried to join the You’ll-pry-my-cold-dead-fingers-from my-Blackberry club, and I could see the convenience of the thing, but eventually I decided I’d rather use my spare moments to look at trees, or make up stories about the other people in line at the bank, or simply think my thoughts.
Frankly, I’m just not important enough to need a smartphone.
So I went to the phone store to choose a replacement.
When I walked in, alarms were going off.
A child had pulled a phone off the display and the anti-theft system was sounding, full blast. The store clerk behind the counter was obviously rattled.
As customers waited, enduring the racket, a large black man entered the store.
The alarm was finally silenced.
With a loud “Good morning,” he greeted everyone in the vicinity. When the clerk failed to acknowledge him, the man addressed him directly, “Don’t you owe me a good morning?” Unfortunately the clerk, a white man, answered, “No, I don’t owe you a good morning. I have a lot of customers to take care of here, and I’m very busy.”
This set the tone for discomfort and grousing among the customers, who continued to wait their turn. Several gave sympathetic glances or made supportive comments to the man who had been rebuffed.
Over the course of the next 40 minutes or so, probably half dozen quiet comments about the exchange were shared among the customers.
Eventually everyone got their business taken care of and we all went on with our day.
How do we handle distress and maintain composure when the going gets tough? I suspect most people in the store could understand both sides of the situation; but the burden is always on the employee to keep his cool and set an atmosphere that welcomes people and gives them a feeling that things are in control.
How different that morning could have been if the clerk had been able to laugh at the chaos, or just maintain good manners and act pleasantly. He may have had a hangover, or been worried about his job, or just had an argument with someone in the backroom about not ordering enough Blackberrys. (I hear they’re in demand.)
Whatever his state of mind, he sent the wrong message. It soured the morning for a handful of people, and left an unfavorable impression of his store location, all in a moment.
When we hire employees to interact with the public, we’re entrusting our image to them. The guidance, direction and even nurturing of our employees is often the best investment business owners can make. When staff feel valued, and regard their job as important, that radiates out to customers and clients. When they experience themselves as cogs in a wheel, some interchangeable parts, moving the merchandise, this also radiates around them.
What do people experience when they are served through your business?