Creating the customer condition

Last week I encountered a very interesting customer situation. It was early morning and I was getting some breakfast at a cafeteria-style place at work. The short order cook clearly was not in a good mood. He was making orders and serving them up with a “I could care less” attitude. I watched him for a few minutes until I requested my items. He simply asked, “What can I get you?”

I placed my order and took my breakfast items. It was a simple encounter and I honestly didn’t think anything of it at that moment.

I got my coffee (self serve) and went to the register to pay. Here, the lady working the register was energetic, excited, and pleasant. She was very excited that it was a Friday.

I smiled and greeted her, paid my bill, and wished her a great weekend.

As I sat and ate my breakfast, I started to reflect on what just happened. In a matter of just a few minutes, two customer service workers drove in me a condition of response. Their attitude toward their work, affected my attitude toward them.

I never addressed the cook politely or said please and thank you. Yet, I was super polite to the lady on the cash register. In both situations, they created my customer condition.

If you ever wonder about the experience your employees create for customers, this was a perfect example. It took me several minutes of reflection to actually notice what had happened to me in this encounter. Imagine my day, if the cook had been the last person in the process and I went to work then versus after the lady at the cash register.

Through their actions and attitude, your employees create a customer condition. Something to think about.

Moments of Truth in Business

All it really takes is once.

One time to screw up in business to lose a customer. But really, the first time interaction is the most critical.

Toastmasters International has a Club Success Series training presentation that talks about Moments of Truth for Toastmasters Clubs. Basically, the presentation highlights the opportunity for the club to shine and keep a member or fall on their face and lose that member.

The most crucial moment is the first time a guest visits a club. If they aren’t properly welcomed, if no one explains what is happening during the meeting, and/or if the meeting is run poorly, then there is a good chance that visitor will not be back and thus, not become a member.

There are other moments where you could lose a new member, but the most crucial is the first meeting…this is their first impression. If it’s bad here, one might assume that it’s all downhill from here.

I think in business we have the same type of Moments of Truth. The first time customer is always the most vulnerable to never come back. If they have been a customer for a while and you make some mistakes along the way, they are generally more forgiving–they have time vested in the relationship and don’t really want to throw it away.

So, what are the Moments of Truth for your company. What are the few things that you can focus on doing perfect all the time because these are the things that a new customer will see and, if done poorly, could turn them away.

You heard the three things a new visitor might notice. Not being welcomed, not understanding what is going on, and the meeting is run poorly. Let’s examine their three and see how they fix that and you consider what are your big rocks that you can work on.

The emphasis is that these are the things that every club must do well all the time and they have proven methods to make this happen in every club.

The Greeting. Every club is encouraged to have a person that is dedicated to greeting every single person as they arrive at the meeting. Toastmasters has this “thing” about shaking hands and it’s a rule that every member should shake every person’s hand when they arrive. Think about the impact that would have on a new visitor that every single person at the meeting made a point of coming up, shaking their hand, and welcoming them to the meeting. So, pretty simple–always have a greeter (it’s the Sergeant At Arms job) and everyone greets everyone at every meeting. Moment one solved.

Understanding. Now that you know someone is new to the meeting, because everyone greeted that person, you have the opportunity to sit that person next to someone who can explain what is going on during the meeting. Between knocking on the table when the word of the day is used to the general flow and purpose of meeting activities, a Toastmasters meeting can be rather confusing. Once you understand why the meeting runs the way it does, a visitor will feel more comfortable. Moment two solved.

The Meeting. Part of Toastmasters effectiveness is teaching people how to run effective meetings. Thus, every single meeting has an evaluator. This means that every meeting should be run well. They start and end on time, the agenda is set and followed, and the meeting runs smoothly. By following the standard club approach, fully training Toastmasters of the Day, and having good evaluations, every meeting should run well and everyone attending should enjoy them. Moment number three solved.

As you were reading these moments, can you think of similar situations where you have a new customer and that one thing or those few things could turn me off and they simply never come back. These are the things you need to do well every time.

Of course, there are other times in a new member’s experience that could sour them to a club…like their first speech, the first time they run a meeting, etc., but now that they are a member, they generally are more accepting.

So, in your business, you have that opportunity to make a first impression…one that is positive…if you focus on the few things that are your Moments of Truth and do them exceptionally well.

Building a rapport, a key to business

Have you been out to eat and you see the manager out trolling tables asking surface questions, like how’s your food, everything ok, etc?

At some point, this person was told that they should interact with the customers. Being a diligent manager, they make sure about every hour or so, they make the rounds and basically follow up on the wait staff, by asking the same questions that their staff does.

Have you ever been out to eat and the manager brings out some water, your food order, or a bottle of wine and strikes up a conversation?

This is the manager that gets it.

People like restaurants for the food, but love them for the atmosphere. When I lived in Germany for six years, almost every place to eat served almost the exact same food–schitzel. How does one differentiate between one place and another when they all served the same thing?


I would go back to the same place to eat because of the people that worked there. They took the time to know me…know what I ate and drank and what I did. They established a rapport.

Last night, I took my parents and wife out for a birthday dinner (wife and mom have birthdays one day apart) to Myron’s Steakhouse at Wurzbach and Northwest Military in San Antonio. If anyone has been to both this one and the original one in New Braunfels, the original has a better ambiance.

The food was great. The service was great. But, the tables are small and it’s not the same as eating at the original one. Get a booth if you go.

Then the manager brought out our wine…that changed everything. She never introduced herself as the manager and asked how things were ( we thought she was the wine steward at first). She simply struck up a conversation and continued that conversation throughout the meal at key times and even talked to us before we left. She made up for the little things.

Lesson Learned here: In business, building a rapport makes up for the little things.

I’m sure you’ve heard that you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time. No matter how hard you try to please everyone, there are those at some point that want something different. Your job, as a manager, is to make up for the little things.

Establish a rapport by being honest and interested in your customers as people. Do this early in the relationship. There are many ways that you can insert you early into a business relationship to deliver something.

Think about the manager at Myron’s. She brought out the wine–the wine is something you order early in a meal (if you get it by the bottle), so she owns a process that inserts herself in the relationship early in the night and then it allows her to comfortably check in on us without seeming like she is usurping her staff’s role as our server.

This might also allow her to prioritize the customers that she wants to build a rapport with. Let’s face it…everyone should focus on their key customers (Pareto Principle, right?). She delivers a bottle of wine because these people are easily spending $50 to $100 or more on their meal than others. It’s a simple consideration…these guests are spending more money, so I’ll focus most of my attention on them, because I want them to come back.

These are tricks that you could use as well. There could be something that is a bit higher level that you provide to more discerning, higher paying, or power customers that sets them apart from the other 80%. Maybe you could provide that service to establish that key rapport as the manager of the work?

Now I’m not saying that anything the manager did was by design…that just might be her thing or the way Myron’s operates; however, it worked. The waiter certainly could have opened and served the wine…they do at many restaurants. They could of had a wine steward that brought out the wine, like many high end places do. However, that isn’t what happened and it seemed perfectly normal.

I would say that my wife and I probably would not have ever gone back because we were sitting at a small table and it just didn’t feel the same as the other store. Now though, there is a good chance we will go back (and ask for a booth) and would hope that the same manager is working.

All because of rapport.

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