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"That Personal Touch"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"™

(c) 2001, A Few Good People, Inc.

What makes a person want to do business with one business but not with another?  I’m not talking about wishy-washy preferences here, like “Well, I’d prefer this to that”.  I’m talking about a definite want to do business with a particular business, and a definite aversion to another.  “I can’t wait to buy from so-and-so, but I wouldn’t go to such-and-such if my life depended on it.”  This is one of those questions of the ages… a timeless problem that business owners face day in and day out.  Do you ever ask yourself that question?  Do you ever wonder why someone picks you to do business with instead of the guy down the street?

I got some terrific insight into this dilemma in an informal discussion with my sister last week.  She was casually telling me about an antique store she happened to visit and after being in there for only a few minutes, she found herself wanting to find something to buy.  Imagine that!  Wouldn’t you like to say that you had that effect on your customers?  I asked her what made her feel that way.  Her answer, like the answers to many questions that seem complex, was very profound and very simple.

“They really cared.”

I was floored.  Of course that makes a big difference, but I never consciously thought about it in those terms.

She had gone in to see a particular lamp, and the person who helped her said that the design had a special meaning and went out of his way to find out what it meant, the history of the piece, etc.  It was an attitude of being helpful without being pushy.  It was the personal touch.

She went on to tell me about a chain of drugstores in her area where it is common knowledge that the people who work there just don’t care.  Common knowledge!  Can you imagine operating a business where your customers expect to be treated badly???  You can ask where something is and they will say, “Aisle 13”, sound annoyed, and not even look up from what they are doing.  Well excuuuuuuuuuse me!  She avoids that place like the plague.  She says that their badges should say “Hi!  My name is Mary and I don’t care.”

The difference is in the personal touch.  It has nothing to do with the size of your business or how many employees you have.  Employees of large companies like a drug store chain can show it, and small businesses may not. 

Instead of the scenario above, how about this:  “Where’s the toothpaste?”  Stop what they’re doing, give a big sincere smile, “Here, let me show you.  What brand are you looking for?”, then get up, walk to the proper place, find their brand, hand it to them, and then “Can I help you find something else?”

Nordstrom’s Department Stores is a large company whose employees are legendary in their personal touch.

You should be too.  It will make an amazing difference in your business.

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