Perhaps hundreds of times throughout a typical workday, you are presented with an opportunity to develop relationships that will serve as a conduit for your business's sustained growth beyond your wildest dreams. Whether it's a seemingly casual conversation with a voice on the other end of the phone calling to inquire about your hours of operation, or an exchange with a vendor who delivers a shipment to your facility, your behavior is determining your organization's future.
You see, as human beings we have an intrinsic desire to form bonds and relationships. We're busy and pressed for time. We don't want to invest our energy into just any relationship. We want it to be with someone who we like. We want it to be with somebody who makes us feel better after spending time with them. And yet, I've recently realized that so many businesses are oblivious to the importance of developing any sort of bond with each person they come across.
Notice I did not say, "each customer they come across." That is because being attentive to customers is a more obvious choice if you want to stay in business. Arguably, there are many companies who aren't careful about nurturing existing customer relationships let alone caring about how they come off to every person with whom they interact. However, there is no getting around the direct correlation between relationships and business profitability. The smaller your operation, the more impactful the connection. As a business leader, each touch point a person has with you sets the tone for the feelings they associate with your operation. Even if they aren't in the market for your product line or service offerings, they likely know another person who will be.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla
You already know firsthand that the way you are treated by someone else leaves an impression on you which you carry throughout the next part of your day. We also know firsthand that a business's attentiveness to treating others in a genuinely caring and helpful way can be a sustainable competitive advantage, or its main impediment to profitability.
Let me share with you some of my recent experiences involving moments of human interaction that were lost to an approach by a business leader that regarded me as a transaction rather than a person. As a result, I'll never do business with these companies and I've already shared my negative experience with people in my life that probably won't either.
The bad-mannered recruiter
If you read last week's column, you know that I've recently started my own job search as I transition out of consulting and back into corporate America. I was excited to reach out to a high profile executive recruiter, only to be left terribly disappointed and disgusted by her bad manners. She was abrasive in her delivery and hurried in her communication. She literally didn't ask me one question about my background or experience before dismissing me through a curtly worded email. When I refer my executive clients for career transition services, or need to hire a third-party recruiter in the next chapter of my career, guess who won't be getting a call?
The zombie-like store clerk
While at a nationally recognized store, I needed assistance from a girl behind the desk with a customer service sign hanging above it. Foolishly, I assumed she'd be willing to serve me as a paying customer. When it was my turn in line to receive assistance, she literally stood there staring at me blankly with a gaping mouth, without saying a word. I played along to see how long this awkward silence would last, until I finally asked her if she was ready to help me. Her reply was to complain about being too tired. Guess who walked away to shop someplace else?
I'm all about ending on a positive note, so let me also share with you a great experience I had with a business who gets the relationship side of business. My meeting at Career Partners International in Buffalo lived up to their website's claim of being different by their stated value of showing respect for every individual. Their authentic and meaningful interaction with me was not unnoticed. Guess who is getting a free plug just for doing the right thing? Check out their website at www.cpibn.com.
Remember, you never know the opportunity that lies behind every interaction. Stop tracking transactions and start building relationships.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla, SPHR, is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.