People want to feel appreciated and valued – it’s a powerful human trait. However, in our frantic business lives, we often don’t fully recognize the people with whom we come into contact. We may not be rude exactly, but it is easy to be offhand or dismissive without realizing it, especially if the individual appears unimportant.
Consider, for a moment, the people with whom you interact during any given week. This list probably includes customers, employees, suppliers, receptionists, salespeople, bank clerks, managers, and from a personal perspective, your spouse, kids, friends, family, doctor’s and dentist’s offices; the list is almost endless. That’s a large number of individual contact points. Each interaction can improve your day, further your business interests, hamper them, or increase or decrease personal life pressures. Conversely, you can influence every one of those people positively or negatively.
Let’s look at a few examples. You plan to meet with a potential new customer. You met Jim Johnson recently at a chamber mixer, and you are passing his office, so you decide to call in. You walk up to the front desk person and say, “Please tell Mr. Johnson that Bill Peters is here to see him,” turn and sit down. The receptionist walks off and, a few minutes later, comes back and, without smiling, says, “Mr. Johnson is busy at the moment; perhaps you could make an appointment for some time next week?” Disappointed, you make an appointment.
What transpired behind the scenes? “Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Johnson, but there’s a man here to see you. He doesn’t have an appointment.”
“Well, Pat, as you came back here to tell me, rather than pick up the phone, I sense you are not impressed.”
Pat smiles, “I wasn’t; he was somewhat dismissive and just expected that you’d drop everything and see him. He never smiled and just plonked himself down in reception. I felt he looked down on me as just the hired help.”
Bill wasn’t rude; he didn’t do anything wrong; it's just that he wasn’t particularly friendly toward Pat and didn’t value her role in the company.
Let’s look at how he could have approached the situation better. Once at the reception desk, he might have smiled and said, “Hi, how are you today? What a pleasant reception area; I love all the plants. I’m sorry to drop in unannounced, but I met Mr. Johnson last week at the chamber mixer, and he said if I was passing, to pop in and say hi. If he’s busy, I don’t want to disturb him.”
In this scenario, Pat might have simply picked up the phone and said, “Mr. Johnson, I have Bill Peters here to see you.” Or, she might have gone to his office and said, I have Bill Peters in reception; what a nice man. Have you got a moment to speak with him?”
In the first scenario, Mr. Johnson’s opinion of Bill fell; in the second, it rose. All because Bill showed a little respect and acknowledged Pat as a valuable member of the company.
In our second example, Jennifer hired a graphic designer to refresh her corporate logo and marketing materials. She negotiated a reasonable price with Tom, the designer, who exceeded her expectations by delivering a fabulous new look on time, even though she changed the brief halfway through the project.
When Tom’s invoice arrives, Jennifer calls him and tells him she has a problem with the amount. Before Tom can defend the price, she tells him the invoice amount is too low, and she’d like him to increase it by 15% because he did such a good job.
Tom is amazed and has a newfound respect for Jennifer. Over the years, he goes out of his way to be available whenever she needs him, regardless of how busy he is.
Our last scenario involves a more personal situation. Often, people complain about doctors’ receptionists being standoffish, rude, or dismissive. They don’t consider how stressful it is to deal all day with demanding patients who are worried and anxious.
Lucy is attending her first appointment with a new doctor. When she arrives at the clinic, she makes a point of smiling and making small talk with the receptionist, who looks harassed. After seeing the doctor, Lucy stops back at reception and thanks the receptionist, calling her by her name, “Thanks, Donna, I’m really pleased to be a patient here; you are all so nice.”
Over the next several months, Lucy always refers to Donna by name when phoning in or visiting the doctor. After several interactions, Donna reciprocates, “Hi Lucy, this is Donna; Doctor T has updated your prescription. I’ll get it over to your pharmacist straightaway.”
Now, when Lucy has an issue, she emails Donna, who, as a matter of urgency, goes out of her way to help Lucy.
Never underestimate the value of building relationships at every level. There is an added benefit; when you bring positive energy to those you meet, they, in turn, spread it to others, making the world a better place, one interaction at a time.
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