Smiling [as a competitive advantage]

The other day, I was shopping at The Domain in Austin, Texas. I walked into a Fossil store with the intent of looking around and seeing what new styles of wristwatches they had available. I had visited many stores before this one to window shop, and been accosted by one too many sales people trying to sell me things. Being a student of sales tactics myself, I firmly kept my wallet closed and countered every sales person that tried to pry it open. Someone was about to use one that I could not counter. Smiling.

However, that changed at this Fossil store. This sales person saw me walk in the door and smiled really wide, then walked straight up to me to welcome me in and ask if I needed anything. They walked me around the store showing me the new wristwatch styles available. Without even convincing me, because of the heightened state of positive emotions that I experienced from this sincere and personalized experience, I gladly purchased one of the wristwatches and never felt guilty about it. I keep that wrist watch closely around too today, and wear it every opportunity I get. That wristwatch not only signifies an unplanned, totally impulsive purchase, but a smile that still puts me in a heightened positive state. That day, I did not only buy a wristwatch. I also bought a positive emotional cue.

My point for sharing this story is to express how positive cues that make customers feel good, like smiles, could create a superior customer experience and in turn, be a competitive advantage. We have heard time and time again about how our natural disposition as human beings are neutral with a shade of negative. How we have to constantly ward off negative thoughts and emotions in order to make the most of our life experiences. People who are aware enough about their emotions actively look for positive emotional cues, and so do people who are not, subconsciously. Whenever they encounter something that genuinely makes them feel good, they continually try to relive that experience, and if care is not taken, habitualize it.

So, if we constantly strive to create an environment where every encounter our customers have with us heightens their emotional state positively, we have a potential to keep them around for much longer, making them more valuable to our business. In other words, smiles and positivity are easy shots and could be extra ‘add-ons’ or ‘features’ that our customers get free of charge when they engage with us. This, much more than any material they are paying for will keep them around for much longer, naturally.

How do we inculcate a positive culture that enables our staff constantly deliver a ‘smiling’ attitude to our customers?

  • Self awareness- By helping our team members be more aware of their emotional states while they are dealing with our customers, as such, knowing when to trigger a cue to exhibit a more positive attitude with the customer they are dealing with.
  • Business, as a personal relationship- By helping our team members understand a basic principle of good business; that we are selling the value we add to our customer’s lives, so, even though they are our customers, they are our friends. We are getting value in exchange for the value we add to their lives, just like friends add value to each other’s lives.
  • Environment- By creating a comfortable and fulfilling environment for our team members to be in positive emotional states. As the popular saying goes, charity begins at home. If we are able to create a positive and comfortable environment, where the team enjoys having fun with each other, everyone is treated fairly, compensated properly, recognized appropriately and supported in their plan for career and professional development, then possibilities are higher that they will bring that positive attitude to their interactions with our customers as well.

Of course, this also means we need to be careful about the people we bring to the team, ensuring that they are people whose personalities match up with the team dynamics so they are excited about coming to engage with customers on a day to day basis. Disengaged team members are toxic to business and customer experiences in general.

There is a popular African saying that goes “You cannot give what you do not have.” Half the battle is ensuring that everyone within your organization is ‘smiling’, in other words, highly engaged and passionate about what they do. Once that can be done consistently, being self aware of the ups and downs of daily life and how to keep them under control is the only other ‘soft’ ingredient your team members need to deliver great experiences to your customers.

Smart businesses know this all too well. It is an element of the art of service. Businesses that thrive today are the ones that ‘get’ what it means to consistently deliver outstanding experiences to their customers. They are the businesses that stand the test of time too.

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