On being personable

Humankind-Be-Both-Button-(0127)There’s an author I’ve been following since back in the early days of my own blog. I liked the way she wrote, and she had an amusing way of drawing people into her content by using suggestive titles that made me laugh. Heck, back in those days her blog was even called The Accidental Cootchie Mama.

One day she put a call to action in one of her posts, and I responded. I don’t even remember what it was–something about taking a few seconds out of my day to help her friend. It seemed easy enough, so I did it and commented accordingly. Lo and behold, this person–this author–responded. To little ol’ me. For some reason, that made me feel important.

Fast forward a few years, and The Accidental Cootchie Mama gave way to a real-life author blog. You see, my writer had PUBLISHED A BOOK! This was exciting for me, since I felt a kinship with her, this blogger-has-big-writing-dreams-and-starts-accomplishing-them person. I identified with the first half of that description, and her success gave me hope for the second half. I still follow her because she’s real to me.

Fast forward again, and now she’s three books in. I’m learning a lot about the grueling nature of a book tour and the only-glamorous-on-the-outside life of a published author. This woman works hard for everything she gets. She’s trying to eke out a living on the book circuit while she wrestles with a bunch of personal issues. But you know what, she’s transparent about it. She’s real, and I love that about her.

Yesterday I noticed a Facebook post that screamed for acknowledgement. Her energy and resolve were flagging, so I added a comment. Guess what.

Within seconds, she responded. It made my day.

What’s the point of this rambling post? I wasn’t entirely sure when I started writing; I just felt that there was something important in this incident. As I’ve worked this out on my keyboard, here’s what I think now.

Behind every facade, whether it’s a book cover, a marquee, an athletic jersey, a title, or a pasted-on smile, you’ll find a real person. Don’t ever forget that, and treat people accordingly.

And don’t forget that real people have ups and down, just like the rest of us real people. If it feels right, throw a word of encouragement their way. Or support. Or love. Or even just recognition of the fact that the person is a, well, person. Not an author or an actor or an athlete or an elected official or a teacher or a business mogul or a cab driver, but a person with hopes and dreams and trials and disappointments.

We’re all in this together. And words do matter.

P.S. If you get a chance, check out http://andrawatkins.com/blog/. Whether or not her writing ends up speaking to you, she’d surely appreciate your interest. After all, she’s a real person.

It’s always personal

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I couldn’t stop thinking about how sometimes the smallest actions have the most significant effect on the customer service experience. As I ran through different experiences in my head, I realized they shared a common theme: at our very core, we simply want to be acknowledged.

Consider these examples.

  • Years ago, I decided to trade my car and buy a new one. I took my then-boyfriend along for moral support and set about visiting car dealerships in search of the perfect vehicle. Unfortunately, the salesman at the place that interested me most wouldn’t talk to me. He addressed every question to my BF, even though I was the person with the checkbook. When he called later to follow up, he couldn’t remember my name. Guess who didn’t get my business.
  • Fast forward more than twenty years to another car buying experience. This time, my dad was with me—not because I needed moral support or advice, but because I needed a ride. The salesman did all right, but his sidekick in the finance department tried to direct his conversation to my male counterpart. In this case, however, my dad quickly set him straight in no uncertain terms. The experience took a turn for the better when I had the finance guy’s undivided attention.
  • Last weekend, I talked to a colleague who had recently purchased a new vehicle. When asked why he had chosen that particular make and model, he replied that it had all come down to the salesman. He had visited several dealerships, and only one salesman had remembered his name. Not surprisingly, that guy had also been able to answer all of his questions, but the name thing stuck with him more than anything. My colleague went with the guy who made him feel that he (his business) was important.

Although these examples all revolve around car buying, I can think of many more across all walks of life. Regardless of the scenario, they all boil down to one thing: the customer wants to feel important. Look at me. Listen to me. Acknowledge me. Recognize me. Remember my name. It may be a business transaction, but there are people involved. And whenever people are involved, it’s personal.