When the Employees Set The Example

This experience just happened and I had to come home and write about it- So…. I go to this place which we have frequented now for quite some time.  I bet we have spent over $1000 there easily…. Probably less than $5000 I’d estimate.   We used to think it was merely overpriced but we came to learn why their product is superior and “worth it.”   We learned this from the employees there who were nice enough to share info in a calm way, not making us feel rushed out of there like the only thing that mattered was our $$$.  


It’s interesting because most of the workers are men.  It’s not really surprising- I guess one would generally think of men more in that kind of business, particularly the procurement of the product.  Maybe for the sake of the story we can call the product wood.  I generally imagine most lumberjacks and carpenters to be men.  Granted, at the hardware store there could be women- but I typically think of it as a place that would attract more men to work with that product: wood.  


So I go in and order my usual. There’s a man there who always asks how my mom is doing, asked how she was recovering from surgery etc.  A couple of the younger guys seem to give recognition in their facial expression that I have been there before.  This woman comes over to ask me if I need help.  I may have seen her there before, but rarely.  She’s middle aged- so I am less likely to assume she’s a new employee, but maybe someone who just comes in once in a while or something.  I should note that I was on the phone, or rather made a phone call when I went in because I saw something indicating there was a special kind of “wood” that someone I know really likes and  I wanted to call them to find out if they’d be interested in me picking it up for them. While I was on the phone, my main attention was on the place where I was, not getting lost in my phone call because of course that could be eye-roll inducing as the attention makes the most sense to be with the people with whom you are personally present.  My main reason to call was to inquire if they would like this special wood.  As such I didn’t mind not being served as quickly as usual, in fact I preferred it to be able to make my inquiry before placing my order….for wood.   Usually you go in and there are 3-5 people taking the wood orders so the wait is not long.     


My intuition was in top form though because not only did I have the feeling I didn’t want her to serve me because I wanted the phone exchange complete, but I just got this energetic vampire feeling from her.  I would have rather waited 5-10 minutes for my usual friendly guys to help me.  That’s the great thing about smartphones- even though my battery was getting low- there are always emails to get back to- or other productive options.  But alas, she was my “wood vendor” for the evening.  And I order my usual.  And she just seems so tense and annoyed.  I like to imagine when people are like this- could they be having a bad day?  Could they have just found out their dog has cancer, or their great aunt died? But that is an entirely different demeanor than I encountered.  It was tense, annoyed, flustered, perturbed, bothered by my order.  I ordered what I always order.  If we were buying the tree at this wood place- I order the twigs- they are cheaper and I enjoy them, whereas the majority of people like the trunk, so it costs more.  Usually they will pull off twigs for me because most people don’t want them anyway- and often they sell them separately.  She just goes away for a while, to the back, I still don’t know why because I am also trying to manage my phone inquisition as to whether they actually want some of the special wood or not-  but it’s unclear why she does that.    She seems overly flustered at my order, breathing out in exasperation and shaking her head back and forth quickly a few times the way one usually would if someone asked a woman “how old are you, how much do you weigh?”  Or basically the reaction of “I canNOT believe you have the lack of decorum to ask me that!” In a very irritated way, mumbled about “the things that go on when I am not here.”  The whole situation was uncomfortable and as a longtime customer I felt extremely unvalued.  


Sometimes I can just give a huge smile through all that, but as I’ve been having quite a large amount of stress and have been pushed past many limits- I just found myself contracting my energy to preserve it from this situation.  Then at the last minute  I decided I would give her a compliment anyway.  It was a simple one- by no means my top shelf stuff as there was no time- and I said it too fast, she didn’t really hear and said “what?”  Then when I said it again she did give a full perky reaction which entirely changed her demeanor.  I didn’t even realize she’d be capable of such momentary friendliness.  But either way, after dropping some sunshine I got the heck out of there!   


I was trying to deduce why she might have acted that way.  Perhaps she was stressed.  Perhaps things are about “the bottom line” there.  Perhaps there is more financial concern than meets the eye.  Maybe it was just that she was annoyed the employees were doing something she didn’t support-  in this case friendliness and positive customer relations.  In reality it wasn’t likely me that induced her surliness, but possibly some kind of impaction.  Perhaps bowel, perhaps emotional.  Either way I always recommend fiber, be it literal, or figurative, to help move things along and help one remain a happier human.  


Later I reflected how when I gave her that compliment she didn’t even say thank you, or how nice of you to say, just said “well I try.”  It was a positive comment about an element of her appearance.  To me that signals that it wasn’t a stressful day or bad mood.  It must be ingrained that gratitude is not the first thing that comes to mind.  Have you ever had the situation where someone asks how you are and without thinking you just say “good or fine” even if that really isn’t the truth.  Not consciously hiding it, just such an automatic reaction.  I find for most people getting compliments, even if they wanted to say something else, they’d ordinarily just say thank you.  Just like for those who say “God bless you” when someone sneezes- it’s fairly automatic to the point where they sometimes accidentally bless someone who coughed when it sounds vaguely sneeze-ish.


I was thinking to myself there’s no reason to not share what business this was.  If it were Yelp that would be the whole point.  But my purpose in sharing this story is mainly to make the point about customer service, and the values of the company and how the owner can actually learn from the employees.  Did I happen to mention?  The energetic vampire huffy puffy flustered woman was the *owner*!!!


What can we learn?  

  1. Nice friendly employees make for happy customers.  Employees that care enough to remember their “regulars” and ask how their loved ones are doing.  It makes a difference.  It solidifies the connection.  And people do business with people they like and trust.  
  2. Being the owner doesn’t mean being the best at everything.  Maybe she’s great at running a business but drives customers out the door with her demeanor.
  3. If your employees are doing something that has kept a customer coming back regularly, maybe they know something you don’t. Perhaps if you insist on the rigidity- it’ll simply snap that aforementioned relationship and you lose the customer.  


Overall lesson- friendliness and being loving wins!