Authentic Connecting, One Step at a Time

Make an effort to make an authentic connection.

Connecting with others to build a relationship in business can oftentimes be difficult. Case in point: my high school job of making donuts at a grocery store. Every Saturday morning, I rose before the sun, arrived at the store, dropped dough balls into grease, then frosted them. Being genuinely happy doing this was a bit of a stretch for me. When the store opened for business, I would have to authentically connect with customers even when I didn’t feel like it.

At the end of the day, we had to tightly wrap the pasta salads in preparation for our 9:00 p.m. close. And without fail, every single Thursday night, the same lady would arrive at 8:45 p.m. needing a quarter pound of this and a quarter pound of that right after I had sealed the salads. It was always the same size serving and always the same salads, and I would robotically go through the motions with a fake smile.

Then one day, it hit me: I realized that I could prepackage those salads, seal up the bowls, and not have to redo my work. You should have seen the smile on her face when my customer showed up and her quarter pounds of ham salad and coleslaw were ready to go! Authentic connecting. It all begins with the first step, even if it is a small step.

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Here is an excerpted version of my suggestions authentic connecting, one step at a time. Get the whole article as a PDF at the link.

Put on your business mindset at work.

I learned this mindset at an early age from my father. As a farmer, he was required to rise early for work. He never complained about being tired or about dealing with uncooperative weather conditions. He put on the work mindset at the same time he put on his cap. As a professional motivational speaker, there are days when I struggle to get in the motivation mindset. However, I find it helpful to focus on the audience in the room and share in their enthusiasm for the event they are attending. In other words, I take the focus o myself and shift it to the customer.

Watch out for self-absorbed behaviors.

It is easy to fall into a trap of a guest encounter being all about you instead of the guest. Once, I was at a resort that offered very expensive massages. I decided to treat myself and looked forward to the pampering. I went down to the spa and met my masseuse. The moment the massage began, she told me about all the negative things in her life. She went on and on about a boyfriend, a demanding mother, a bad childhood even! By the time the massage was over, all the negative energy had moved from her into me. See, she didn’t authentically connect with me. She made it all about her and nothing about me, which made it the worst massage I’ve ever had. Be very aware of how of when you use the word “I” when talking to a guest. If the conversation is all about you, the connection will be difficult.

Use active listening and responding.

When you ask questions, be sure to turn the “active listening” button on in your ears and your brain. At the grocery store where I shop, they’ve been trained to say the same thing every time you check out. “Did you find everything okay?” At that point in the transaction, all of my groceries are up on the belt. Now is not the time for me to say that I couldn’t find something. It’s when I was out in the aisle that I needed help!

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Engage in finding a solution.

Every guest who calls or visits your company is looking for a solution to something. It can be as trivial as looking in a craft store for rubber stamps to make greeting cards. It can be as serious as a visit to a dentist to find a solution to excruciating mouth pain. If a solution in a craft store or a dentist office is found, a connection is made. Help the guests find the product or the service that delivers the answer to their needs, and they will be back. The authentic connection builds rapport and must be a priority for your team.

An entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author, Laurie Guest, CSP is a “go-to-resource” for customer service excellence. For more than two decades, she has shared her practical point of view on customer service and staff development with audiences and companies across the country, blending real-life examples and proven action steps for improvement. Her latest book, The 10¢ Decision: How Small Change Pays of Big, presents her most sought-after and impactful strategies to find and retain the best staff and highest-quality customers while delivering exceptional guest experiences.

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