People Power: Playful, remarkable service creates loyalty – Oct 2023

By Sam Allman

I have struggled and been frustrated with many of the changes within our society and culture brought on about by technology. But most of the changes have been beneficial. We can instantly communicate with anyone in the world at any moment. We have access to most any kind of information at our fingertips, as well as videos and podcasts that explain how to do most anything.

Technology has allowed us to better organize our lives. It has facilitated my ability to travel the world and see places that my grandparents could have only dreamed of and even arrive at any designated spot on earth without a map.

I could continue to list technology’s benefits in innumerable areas. So, though I’m at times frustrated, I am glad I was born an early Boomer so I could watch technology evolve and change the world. However, when improperly used, technology can be detrimental.

There are concerns about how we protect our freedoms and our privacy online and on our devices. How do we secure our personal information from misuse or fraud?

Some devices we use are engineered to keep us on them all day long. It’s hard to find anyone anywhere without their face in their phone. It takes discipline to use them optimally. How do we protect ourselves from addiction? What prevents us from wasting our precious time going from app to app?

The fact that anxiety, depression and suicide have dramatically increased since the introduction of social media to our young is also a sign that misused technology is detrimental. We prevent our children from drinking alcohol and taking drugs, but we allow them to spend hours on social media or playing video games.

Fortunately, there are two things that technology cannot replace. First, we need people. We can lock ourselves in our rooms and experience a virtual world, but it does not help us thrive. Being alone breeds loneliness, and loneliness breeds psychosis. We do not need everyone, but we do need someone. Relationships are valuable. They make us happy and provide meaning and support.

The second thing we need is “play.” We play through childhood and into adulthood, and true play is impossible to do alone. Though we can play games online, psychologists say they do not meet the criteria of play needed for humans or human development. The games are structured and fixed. In contrast, play for humans and virtually all animals is self-controlled and self-directed. It is a biological imperative that all young mammals play. It is where they learn to solve their own problems. Play is creative and where we learn to cooperate. Its self-directed nature makes it a powerful learning tool.

When we play with others, we learn empathy. We learn how to make up rules, how to enforce rules, how to be flexible with rules, and what to do when we don’t get our way. We learn most of our social skills in play. Play is nature’s means of ensuring young mammals learn what they need to succeed in adulthood. In play, they take risks and experience fear without becoming immobilized or threatened by it. Working through fear instructs us how to deal with it and survive when dangerous situations confront us. It teaches mammals that they do have and can manage some control over their environment.

When young “play-deprived” mammals develop, they become social and emotional cripples. When you place a play-deprived mammal in an unfamiliar environment or with a novel cage-mate, they overreact with fear, self-isolate and refuse to explore the new environment. They become inappropriately aggressive, anxious and fearful, according to “The Decline of Play” by Peter Gray. Is that why there is an increase in anxiety and depression in our youth and young adults? Are our kids playing too many video games alone and living on social media instead of playing outside interacting with their peers?

Something is happening that is affecting our ability to work together, collaborate, trust each other and compromise. I am not sure what it is, but I am sure industrialization and technology have played significant roles. And that is where people skills and play come in. As a society, we need more effort in using and developing those skills we probably learned (or were supposed to learn) as children, not sitting in the classroom but playing outside with others.

Because technology is replacing many of the interactions we used to have, like ordering food or products, asking directions, asking questions, clarifying instructions, making comparisons, etc., when we do have interactions, it makes our people skills even more important. There is safety in being silent. We might be rejected. We might appear stupid or sound dumb.

When our people power is strong and well-exercised, we are more courageous. We step up and engage. We may like technology doing some of our work for us, but we will always be required to interact with neighbors, employees, family members, friends and customers. Using those skills, building relationships and making connections elevates our personal state of well-being.

In addition, we need to continuously use and build those skills because we are in the floorcovering business. We need more than online skills and bots doing our advertising and selling. Buying floorcovering is a touchy-feely, complex purchase. Most customers need more than online contact; they need face-to-face contact with someone they trust who will answer their questions. This is our opportunity to use our people skills to create customers and customer loyalty.

Because of current economic conditions, your store traffic may be lighter. Ramping up your customer service and embellishing your brand experience is your opportunity to increase sales and customer loyalty. Good old-fashioned customer service and personal influence will close more sales, increase your average ticket and develop more loyal customers than most anything else you do. A person who walks in your door is a qualified potential real-time customer. Poor face-to-face interaction may cause them to give up, leave or go somewhere else. Your people skills-selling and serving-will turn them into loyal profitable customers. Those skills trump technology.

Face-to-face contact is where play comes in. Play is basic to human nature, and the research is clear: Animals with the largest brains need more play than those with smaller brains to develop to adulthood properly. The fact is, our frontal cortexes do not finish developing until we are almost 30. We need to play even in adulthood. That’s why we need vacations and time off. At almost 80, I still like and find joy in playing with my friends, family and strangers. I am not talking about “partying.” Drugs and alcohol rarely teach you anything beneficial, and if you learn something during that kind of playtime, you probably won’t remember what it was the next day. I believe that’s why my father went to his store every day until he passed away at age 94. He wasn’t working; he was going out to play with friends.

When you greet a customer or meet someone new for the first time, you practice the same skills you develop as a child in play. You put yourself out there, take small risks with some sort of greeting, hoping that they will allow you to connect. That’s why smiling is so important at first. We know that smiling at someone releases endorphins in their brains that make them feel good and initially safe. A slight touch on their arm or shoulder or a good firm handshake cements that feeling.

If they let you engage, you take a risk by revealing a little of yourself. Are you safe? Are you too pushy or aggressive? Do you care or just want something? If they begin to trust you, they will gradually open up, and you will begin sharing personal stories with each other. You both tell more, hoping not to be rejected. (Sounds like dating, doesn’t it?). Your enthusiasm makes it fun for them because everything they say appears fascinating to you. You are interested in them and their issues. Your questions prove your trustworthiness. You begin to feel their pain, you acquire empathy; they feel understood. Gradually, they see your expertise, and their trust of you broadens. You prove you care by taking the time to identify the product that is just right for them. If you can’t supply that product, you recommend it anyway. That’s why you are safe to “play” with.

Great sales and people skills may be enough to make a sale, but to assure that your customer returns or recommends you to friends is not certain. Satisfied customers don’t come back, only loyal customers come back. A loyal customer is worth significantly more than a satisfied customer in dollars and cents. The question, of course, is how we ramp up the customer experience from good to memorable or remarkable so that customers are willing to retell others repeatedly about their experience?

What makes an experience remarkable or memorable? It’s the feelings that were generated as they experienced your service. The experience generates the feelings of reciprocity, the need or obligation to give back. Remarkable service requires that you exceed the expectations of the customer. The most recent customer service saying is, “Promise less, deliver more.” You deliver more by surprise. It’s not a customer experience; it is a surprising, unexpected experience.

If I were to manage a store today, I would have at least ten basic customer service standards by which I would require my employees to abide. In today’s environment, most would surprise the customer. I’m sure you could add a few more.
• Greet or at least acknowledge the customer with a smile within 30 seconds of their entering the store. Likewise, answer the phone within three rings.
• If a customer has a problem, take responsibility, own it and follow it through.
• Address and solve problems quickly. Keep the customer informed.
• Offer the customer something to drink: water, coffee, tea or soda.
• Return all phone calls within 24 hours-the sooner, the better.
• Acquire the customer’s contact information. Ask permission to maintain contact and keep them in your customer database.
• Remember customers’ faces and learn and use their names.
• Tell the truth. Resist exaggerating and embellishing.
• Maintain contact. Text, send handwritten thank-you notes, special-occasion cards, etc.
• Reward customer loyalty. Surprise the customer with a gift for purchasing-perhaps a cleaning kit.

Since play and fun are part of our human nature, figuring out ways to add that when face-to-face with your customers will add greatly to your customer loyalty. You can be, too. Playful customer service creates loyalty and profits.

Copyright 2023 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE), Fuse, Fuse Alliance