Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The World is a Mirror, Part 20

A is for ATTITUDE
B is for BREAK PATTERNS
C is for CONSISTENCY
D is for DISCIPLINE
E is for EVOLUTION
F is for FRIENDLINESS
G is for GOOD WITH NAMES
H is for HAPPINESS
I is for IDEAS
J is for JOY
K is for KNOWLEDGE
L is for LAUGHTER
M is for MUNDANE
N is for NAMETAGS
O is for OFF BUTTON
P is for PAINT YOURSELF INTO A (GOOD) CORNER
Q is for QUICK
R is for RUDE PEOPLE
S is for Service
T is for Time

Wanna know something weird?

Wearing a nametag all the time actually gets me better service.

In restaurants, bars, clubs, airplanes and hotels, I seem to get treated better than the average customer.

And I don’t even DO anything to deserve it!

I’m still not exactly sure why this happens. But after seven years of observations, here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Reciprocity. Friendliness is contagious. That’s why it’s hard to give excellent service to someone who’s in a terrible mood. Of course, it works both ways, too. Thinking back to my days as a bartender, I remember purposely giving better service to patrons who were friendly. It’s just human nature.

Here’s the irony: after seven years of wearing a nametag to make OTHER people friendlier, I’ve actually become friendlier myself. “You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own,” as the proverb states. So, since I started wearing a nametag 24-7, my increased friendliness has led to enhanced service.

2. Familiarity. Think Norm from Cheers. He was the epitome of a “regular.” A “regular” is someone whom the staff 1) remembers, and 2) sees often. So wearing a nametag all the time expedites my regular status. Whereas it might take the average customer five or six visits to a coffee shop before the staff recognizes him, my nametag speeds up the familiarity to about two or three visits. In the midst of hundreds of customers a day, I’m just easier to remember.

EXAMPLE: I went into my bank the other day to correct a mistake. During my ATM transaction, I accidentally withdrew $34,000 instead of $3,400. Woops! Usually, there’s nothing you can do about such an error. But when I came to the counter, Holly, the manager, told me not to worry about the accidental overdraft. “Don’t worry, Scott - I know you! I’ll run back and change the withdrawal amount so you’re not charged an overdraft fee.” Sweet.

3. Name. Several years ago, Starbucks began writing the names of their customers on the cups. My guess is, they did this for a few reasons. First, to organize the drinks on the counter so the barista wouldn’t get flustered. Secondly, to use the customer’s name in the transaction. Thirdly, to learn the names of the customers for future reference.

Now, since a person’s name is the single context of human memory most forgotten (says Freud, at least) wearing a nametag every day actually makes the barista’s job easier. Hence, better service.

4. Social Distance. The greatest power of a name is that it reduces the distance between people. Physically AND emotionally. See, when you know someone’s name, you’re immediately closer to that person. For example, let’s say (for some strange reason) you were in the mood to punch someone in the face. You came across two strangers who were similar in appearance, but noticed one of them was wearing a nametag that read, “Randy.” Which person are you more likely to punch in the face?

I know this example is completely ridiculous. (Then again, over the years I’ve had dozens of people try to beat me up for wearing a nametag, so perhaps my Ridiculous Meter is a bit skewed.) ANY way, the point I’m trying to make is: it’s easier to offer bad service to someone you don’t know. And conversely, it’s easier to offer good service to someone you DO know.

Ultimately, my goal in sharing these observations is NOT to offer tips on how to get better service.

I just think it’s interesting to switch the roles for once.

See, companies are obsessed with finding ways to provide better customer service. But they tend to focus on the characteristics of the staff, not the customers themselves.

Maybe a counterintuitive approach is necessary.

Maybe companies should FIRST consider the customer who already gets better service, see WHY that happens to him, and THEN apply those principles back to their staff.

Just an idea.

(FYI, this week happens to be the exception to this rule. My flight was cancelled, I got re-routed to Charlotte, rented an unneccesarily large SUV for $619 because that's all they had left, drove all the way to Spartanburg and STILL didn't get my luggage. Special thanks to the Kohl's on Main Street for actually having stylish, affordable clothes that fit so I didn't have to give my speech in cargo pants and a t-shirt. God I love Kohls.)

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Scott Ginsberg
Author/Speaker/That Guy with the Nametag
www.hellomynameisscott.com

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