Vince Lombardi, famed football coach of the Green Bay Packers, once opened season training with the now famous quote, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The team had a devastating loss that ended the prior season. The team gathered for training camp expecting to pick up where they left off. They likely came ready to learn new plays to build on the previous year and complex strategies for beating teams that beat them the year before. Instead, Lombardi opened training camp by going all the way back to the beginning: “Gentlemen, this is a football.” From there he had them open their playbooks to page one. These professional athletes, who were at the top of their game and the height of their careers were learning basic blocking, tackling and catching.
With all the technology and new tools of marketing, it can be easy to forget what helped us succeed in the first place: Taking care of customers one at a time. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of social media, search engine optimization, geofencing, email marketing … and the list goes on, growing every year with new tools, new apps and new tactics.
However, the core function of sales is simply creating customers. If you can get people to “know, like, trust” and refer you, your business will never want for customers. Word of mouth is still the king of all tactics. By the way, the “know, like and trust” framework is from John Jantsch, my Vince Lombardi.
What do people experience when they interact with your shop? Are the people who care for your customers truly caring? I’m talking about the customer service representatives, the ones who answer the phones, the ones who take payment at the end of the repair. Are they warm, energetic, empathetic and great at listening to the individual needs of each customer.
Let’s take a quick, closer look at each of those.
Warmth is mostly communicated through body language and eye contact. Genuine caring comes through when we stop a conversation we’re having to attend to the needs of a potential customer in front of us. Or if we’re on the phone we can at least make eye contact and mouth the words, “Be right with you.” That simple acknowledgement puts people at ease. I had the opposite experience at restaurant recently. I stood waiting to be seated for a very uncomfortable 10 minutes. Ten minutes! In silence. To make it even more awkward there was someone washing dishes that would peek around the corner at me and when we made eye contact would divert their eyes back to the task at hand. And there was a waitress who was likely doubling as the hostess who clearly saw me but stayed at the table she was serving, having a conversation. Not taking an order. Not fielding a concern. Talking as if they were her friends. I double checked the sign and internet to make sure they were still open, and it was at least an hour before closing time. I eventually left feeling awkward and slightly embarrassed that I wasted 10 minutes of my life that I will never get back.
Energy, also expressed by body language and words carries a sense of positivity, and confidence that we can help. And we’re ready to do so!
Empathy, often perceived as a natural gift, is actually a skill that can be learned. Some may have a higher capacity than others, but anyone can learn through practice how to be more empathetic. It starts by simply noticing people. Which is pretty much the opposite of what i encountered at that restaurant.
Listening. The customer isn’t there to hear about your weekend. They don’t care about your personal problems or even your entertaining stories. They are there because they have a problem, a need, and they think you can help. Prove them right.
If you want to find out if your front line is exhibiting these qualities, all you have to do is observe them in action. You can get fancy and hire secret shoppers but really observing their interactions with a few customers will tell you all you need to know. Use the items above like a checklist and just walk into your shop and observe your team interacting with customers. It won’t take long, and if you find a teachable moment, you may just be setting your shop up for great success. In some ways, it’s sad that good customer service has become a differentiator, but with the bar so low, this is your chance to shine.