I like to practice communication and customer service skills when I go to Waffle House… or Subway… or most any place to eat.
What? I practice when I’m the customer?
Allow me to explain. Perspective is so important in all we do. We like being around those with a great, wide perspective. And our own perspective can even be considered a skill that can be improved, broadened and sharpened. Rapport is critical too in building honest, mutual trust.
You see, when you can see yourself through the eyes of others, you can use that to do your job better (and life too). This is a bit vague, so let me give an example…
When I go to Waffle House I make a point to have an enjoyable visit, involve my waitress in the order without being a hassle. I give a genuine smile and speak pleasantly.
When they take my order, I order eggs. They always ask, “How would you like your eggs cooked?”
Without being a pain, I sincerely say something like, “However you think they will be best. Really. Whatever you think will be good will be fine.”
If they resist, then I tell them, “How about then, however the cook likes them.”
Some waitresses look puzzled. Some smile. Some even shake their head as they walk off.
But almost every time… Something Magical Happens.
First, I get great eggs. Every time! Second, the waitress will come back at least 75% of the time and not say “How is everything?” to everyone at the table. She’ll come and look at me and say, “How are those eggs?” with a big smile. Or, she’ll say, “The cook wants to know how you like your eggs.” Again, with a big smile.
And I smile and tell her they are great (and they always are). Now, perhaps you are more particular about how your eggs are cooked but I like a variety of foods and hey, let’s be honest here, it’s just eggs.
So what is my take away from this exercise?
* I get the best customer service in the place because I sincerely engaged the waitress in the process.
* By involving the waitress, it meant I treated her as a trusted adviser and that trust built a relationship and rapport, even if it was only about an egg.
* This process meant I helped create an environment where the waitress and I saw each other as peers. Neither was subservient to the other. This is key to almost all successful sales and customer service experiences. Shoot, it is key to good relationships all around!
* I get practice (that is still sincere) in quickly building honest rapport with a stranger.
* It makes the meal fun.
At Subway, I let them pick the bread (I don’t know which bread is the freshest) and the cheese (they know what goes best with which sandwich).
At more upscale restaurants, I often narrow my choice to two entrees that I would be happy with, then ask the waiter or waitress to not tell me which but pick the one they think is best and just bring that one.
I always get great food and even learn something new about the menu. The waiter will often come back later to discuss how they chose, why and what other items are really the best on the menu. Now they are my trusted adviser and will tell the truth about things they never would tell me if I just said, “Is this dish good?”
So, back to business… When I meet with a potential client, I ask things of them as well. Particularly things that they may be an expert on, even if that is just an expert on their own likes, goals, plans or concerns. And the more I know about them, the better I can be of service.
With rapport, a peer-to-peer relationship and honest interest, we create a better, more productive (and more enjoyable) environment than “selling” ever does.