Sharing a Customer Care Moment with a Visitor

The ABCs of Customer Care

Forrest Gump – some wise words

A friend and I were recently talking about movies, and that classic Tom Hank’s 1994 film, Forrest Gump, came up. If one recalls the movie, it was both a good-old enjoyable story to watch and a tale with some wise messages, too. To this day, nearly 25 years after its release, most of us can still recite some of its more memorable and meaningful sayings:

  • “Life is like a box of chocolates………………………….”
  • “What’s normal anyways?”
  • “There’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes.”

They offer some good guidance and thinking in how we might approach and live our lives.

In Japan, the movie’s full title was Forrest Gump, Ichigo Ichie (フォレストガンプ・一期一会). Roughly translated, ichigo ichie means ‘one time, one meeting’, but alternative interpretations can beEach moment only once”, “One encounter one time”, and “One chance one time”. Applicable to the main character as a philosophy with which he lived. Specifically, that every event only occurs once in a life’s timeline, and therefore one’s whole focus at that moment should be on that point in time. Further, in that span, it should be given full attention. Interestingly, the phrase offers a very strong message for the business world, too.

Be Like Forrest When It Comes To Treating Your Guests

It is an oft referred-to business adage that it is easier (and cheaper) to keep current customers than  constantly seeking new ones. In that light, “one encounter one time’ is hardly encouraging counsel to take, as if, literally, you will only ever see a customer once. But leaning towards the other two interpretations of ichigo ichie, “One chance one time’ and “Each moment only once”, there is revealed a very clear purpose as to how we should act toward those who select our business over our competitor’s. Specifically, Care for your Customers as Forrest would do – focus on every guest and every moment.   An approach towards attaining this business mantra of ichigo ichie can be summarized in an easy-to-recall acronym “A B C”.

Acknowledge (Welcome All Your Visitors)

If somebody comes to your door, welcome them in. Thank them for making the decision to come to your house (of business). It is the minimum of polite social interaction.

Unfortunately, we’ve all had the experience: As a customer, we’ve gone into a business, stood in the threshold or walked around a few moments, and then just turned around and walked out after being totally ignored by the staff. While we were looking around, the staff at the counter or front desk barely even glanced up from their phone or looked away from what they were doing to say, “Hi. How are you? Thanks for coming in”. It doesn’t feel very welcoming, does it? ….It’s as if they are telling you that they don’t really care to have your business. That’s not Customer Care!!!!

If we enter a business, why wouldn’t we expect to be cheerfully greeted by someone on the staff? Beyond the (business logic) of potentially losing a sale as we walk out after being unattended to, isn’t it simple social courtesy to be greeted when we visit somewhere?

Welcome every visitor, every time.

Be in the Moment (Focus your attention on the person with whom you are with)

Impact the Moment of Truth with action and talk that shows that, in this moment in time, the guest with you is the most important customer at your business.

We have all had conversations where the other person is only half listening. Perhaps they are looking at their laptop, skimming social media, or texting with someone else? How does that make you feel? Are they really listening to what you are saying? With their behavior, are they implying that you are less important than a text message or an incoming telephone call?

A guest is at your business and they should rightly expect (and deserve) to be given your team’s full attention for the time that they are there.

Connect with Your Guests

Does your operations manual outline a fixed routine for  “Customer Care”s, or does your front-line staff have a ‘license’ to be flexible with each customer as they see fit. Is the metric of performance based on handling a certain number of customers per period, or is the key measure about tracking customer happiness after their problems are solved (and recognizing each issue varies in the time required to handle it)?

Can you recall those times when you went to a medical or service professional or called on someone for advice, and, after you left, you had the feeling that they almost had the solution for you before they really heard what your problem or issue was? It was as if they were on auto-pilot with answers at the ready as soon as you sat down. They offer no indication that they empathize nor have had much effort to really understand your situation.

Each guest or customer is different. It is important to take time to understand that difference, and encourage and reward staff for taking as much time as needed to solve THAT customer’s issue rather than being pressured to offer a standard solution and quickly move to the next person in line. Customer Care is NOT a one-size-fits-all regime.

Summary

If it has been a long time since you seen Forrest Gump, I encourage you to watch it again, this time in the spirit of  ichigo ichie. In the movie, people naturally gravitated towards Tom Hank’s character because he was warm, he saw people each as special in their own way, and he went through life fully  participating in it as it came – in the moment – with those who were there with him. Without knowing it, he was following the ABC’s of Customer Care. A very applicable MO to any business with any guests and looking to strengthen those relationships.

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