Monday, July 23, 2012

Grocery Stores and Making People Feel Valued

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
 but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 
– Maya Angelou (American author (1928- )

On a recent weekend morning my husband Lee and I were running errands. We had five different grocery stores on our list because there were items we wanted that only a specific store carried.

And of course, that meant going through five different check-out lines.

It was fascinating to observe the culture of the store reflected in the person who checked us out.

In some cases the cashier never looked at us directly. The focus was on handling the tasks at hand – scanning the items and processing the transaction. If asked to later identify the customers who came through their lines, they couldn’t have done it because they hardly glanced up to see our faces.

At one store the cashier was engrossed in a conversation with another employee, talking about their upcoming break and days off. We might as well have been invisible because we were clearly not a priority.

And then there’s Trader Joe’s, our favorite place to shop. Not just because the food there is unique and delicious, which it is. (Every one of the salsa jars on their shelves contains fantastic flavors, for example.)

The food is just part of the secret to their growth, reputation and incredible base of raving customer fans.

Trader Joe’s makes a point of hiring people who actually like other people. So the employees (aka “crew members”) are downright friendly and helpful.

Which makes the experience of shopping there consistently positive and even fun.

If I appear to be searching for an item, crew members are proactive about approaching me to ask if they can help find something. They’ll go back to the stockroom to see if a specific product has come in or dash over to the computer system to check when it will arrive. And many times when I put something in my cart, an employee notices and spontaneously recommends a recipe that’s especially good with the product.

When we check out, the cashier looks at us, SMILES, and carries on an engaging conversation.

It’s a memorable, enjoyable experience every time, and as much as we dislike shopping in general, we actually look forward to going to Trader Joe’s.

If you own a store, the lessons here are obvious. But if you don’t, there are still important take-aways that you can apply to every relationship in your life.

Think about the people you come in contact with in your work and in your personal life.

What kind of experience do you create for them when they interact with you? Are you fully present? Do you really look at them and make them feel valued and important? Are you really paying attention to what they’re saying and “getting” the message they’re trying to send you?

It’s easy to be pre-occupied with your own thoughts and priorities when someone is with you. You have to make an effort, and you have to want to connect in a meaningful way with the other person.

The rewards are huge if you develop the habit of giving your full attention to the individual you’re with at the moment. You convey with your words and your behavior that this person really matters to you. And when people feel they matter, it gives their own lives more meaning and purpose. They will feel good about themselves and about YOU.

Maya Angelou is right. People always remember how you made them feel.

Why not make a point of behaving with them in a way that elicits good feelings…every time?
“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of attention.” – Jim Rohn, American author (1930-2009)

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