While I was traveling back to Vancouver from Providence Road Island last week, I stopped off in Chicago to visit a very good friend. I had to wait an hour before he would pick me up at the airport, so I decided I would look around the airport and see if I could get some ideas of things to do while in Chicago. I knew David would keep me busy, but I wanted to see if maybe I could make a suggestion or two: like he would listen anyway.
Down the hallway, near the baggage claim booth area, I noticed what looked like it would have tourist information. As I got closer, I saw it would probably fit the bill. A big sign on the booth said, “We’re Glad You’re Here!” But I noticed right away that there was no one in the booth to help answer any questions. “No problem,” I thought. I could wait for someone to return. After all, I had an hour to kill, or I could probably pick up some information form the counter.
As I was standing against the counter, I noticed not only was no one working the counter, but the brochure racks were all empty. There was a phone book on the counter, but no phone that would allow me to use the phone book. At this point, I was a bit disappointed. I had my hopes up high to get some help. After all, the booth said, “We’re Glad You’re Here!” Yet, there was nothing there to help me, not even a brochure.
So I sat down across the way to blow a part of my hour, and no one came to work the counter. By the way it was 1:30 in the afternoon on a Friday. You would think that someone would be working this area at that time of the day, but low and behold, one hour later, and no one showed. Many people came by for help, but none was to be given.
This had me thinking, so often we want to give a good impression. We want to make people feel welcomed and let them know we care, but if all we have is the desire and not the action, it will almost always backfire on us. Not only did I not get the help or information I was looking for, but I walked away thinking they really don’t want to welcome me: “They really don’t care.” Such a responsive thought is much worse than if they never installed the booth.
After all, if all they wanted to do is say, “Welcome,” a sign—without the booth, counter, and empty brochure racks—would have done the trick. A sign alone would not have built any expectations and would have made me feel good if I read the sign.
The lesson here for me was: if you want to make clients, customers, or the general public feel good or welcome in your organization, you need more then just words, and you need to do more than just show a perception. You need to take action and prove to the customer or clients that you really mean what you are saying. For me, an example would go something like this: If I go to my wife every day and say “I love you” or “I care about you”, but then I never show up for dinner or never bring home a gift, I will not be strengthening my marriage. But if I say “I love you” or “I care about you” and come home early to help with dinner sometimes or bring home a dozen Costco roses, that goes a long way. As it should, action always speaks louder then words! The same goes with customers, clients, or the public.
There is not much more one can do for a person than make them feel important. Whether they are a client, franchisee, patient, or just a friend, making people feel special and important is a key element in strengthening that relationship.
Steve Whiteside is a consultant specializing in organizational development, leadership and motivational workshops. You can contact him at, 604-786-5677.