I was born, raised and continue to live in the South (USA). So, whenever I go out to the store or a restaurant, it's a given that I'm going to be called "love", "doll", "honey", "sugar" and "darlin'" by complete strangers.
The thing is, that when I'm gifted with this easy, casual verbal affection, I no longer feel like we're strangers. A wall comes down, a personal connection is made, and the warmth that accompanies these terms of endearment sticks with me long afterwards.
I was reading this post by Garrison Keillor,
and I was reminded of how verbal friendliness can
have a profound effect its recipient :
A woman checking I.D.s at the airport saw me coming the other day and said, "Good morning, sunshine." She didn't know me from Adam. She glanced at my driver's license and said, "Have a good flight, darling." This was in the South, of course -- in Austin, Texas, to be exact. Northern women would no sooner address a strange man as "sunshine" than they would ask if you wanted to see their underwear. But that woman's "sunshine" shone on me for the rest of the day, and a week later I still remember it.
With natural, unpremeditated charm, that airline employee made Garrison smile and feel warm inside...for an entire week!
Experiencing a genuine smile-inducing interaction exposes all those lame customer service scripts that airlines, fast food restaurants and other businesses use as being as plastic and unauthentic as the painted on smile on Barbie's face.
Thinking about this, I stumbled across Kathy's post over at Creating Passionate Users. She writes:
Marketers and managers tell us to "delight" the customer. But they're usually talking about heroic gestures, "empowering the front line", and virtually always about how to use this "happy customers" focus as a competitive advantage. But sometimes it's the smallest of things that can make all the difference...
Too often we see formal institutionalized smile-strategies... like the Southwest airline flight attendants inserting jokes into their safety speech. But some of those attendants are simply repeating the script, and it shows. It's a lot more smile-inducing when the flight attendant just blurts something out spontaneously, in response to something in realtime. Or when they announce to the entire plane that there's a couple in coach celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, having just returned from a romantic second honeymoon. Or when the pilot comes on and starts describing the joy of flying by telling you way too much about the physics of flight. THESE things make me smile, and for those of us who can't afford first-class, it comes just when we need it the most. And I want to know, "What causes these smile-inducing people to behave like this even though they don't need to?"
As a person who does daily customer service myself, I would back Kathy up and say that pulling off the un-institutionalized smile strategy requires not having a strategy at all. Humans have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting fake friendliness. Kathy's test:
As a person who does daily customer service myself, I would back Kathy up and say that pulling off the un-institutionalized smile strategy requires not having a strategy at all.
Humans have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting fake friendliness. Kathy's test:
Crinkly eyes = real smile. No crinkly eyes? Faker. (or too much botox)
Most of us are interacting with customers from a distance or indirectly, so how can we stun customers with our "virtual" crinkly-eyed smiles and inspire ourselves, co-workers and clients to do the same?
Basically I do just one thing to bring about this result--enjoy my work. I think if you genuinely feel good about yourself and enjoy your work that customers pick up on it and appreciate it. Holy cow--That's the easiest "HowTo" list I've ever written!:-)
But what about before they're our customers--how can we create unpremeditated, memorable experiences with potential clients and consumers?
From a marketing perspective, I guess it would go back to that "being remarkable" factor that Seth is always talking about and the "surprise marketing" that we talked about a few days ago. The unexpected, the memory-making, smile inducing, coming out of nowhere, taking a chance at being genuinely different kind of marketing.
I guess if we approach marketing as a dialogue rather than a sales pitch (if our sweet talking feels natural and personal rather than a scripted), a successful interaction would begin like the one Garrison had with the airline employee--by giving him an unexpected, refreshing experience, her "sunshine" shone on him all day, and a week later he still remembers her.