My son is a college student and recently took a position as barista at a local coffee shop. It would be easy to dismiss this transient position as just a throwaway job, useful only for the cash it yields and little else. But every barista has great leverage because s/he meets people every day, eight hours a day, which translates into interfacing with thousands of people every month! Think of all the opportunities to make a great first impression!
My counsel to my son is simple: every encounter counts – treat every customer encounter, every skinny vanilla latte served up as a job interview. Why? Because with each customer he meets, with every coffee transaction he has a chance to demonstrate his character, his poise, his diction, vocabulary, manners – everything necessary to make a good first impression. The next person he serves may be someone who owns a business, someone who is a manager in an enterprise who just happens to be in search of a personable, social, customer service professional, and what better way to make a good impression than to do it real time serving up a vente caramel macchiato with room for cream?
Here’s an example of what not to do: we had retained a real estate agent to sell our house. In the process of looking for another house, the agent, we’ll call him Jerry, texted my wife several times saying: “Call me”. Call me? Really? No explanation, no details. What do you mean, “call me”? Is that the best customer service behavior that a real estate agent has learned over the years? Why should we have to educate a (very successful) real estate agent about telephone courtesy and etiquette? Putting it another way, if someone said to me: “I’ll give you $18,000 if you do some work for me,” you can rest assured that I won’t be texting my new client saying: “Call me”. I don’t text like that even to my children! But wait, there’s more. On several occasions Jerry arrived to show us a property wearing just an old t-shirt, shorts and flip flops. My wife said, “Jerry, don’t you have anything else to wear?” He said, “Well, I’m tired of coat and ties. In fact, I don’t own a tie. If you invite me to a party that requires a tie, I just won’t go.” Well, that’s it; that crossed the line. I’m sorry, but Jerry feels that he’s entitled to the $18,000 fee, without even bothering to dress for the occasion. He failed to honor the client relationship. Not only did Jerry lose us as clients, we simply can’t refer anyone to him. He doesn’t realize that every encounter = a job interview.
Every encounter counts. Every person you meet = job interview. And I don’t mean just a literal job. Every time you meet someone there is a chance for something different, something better, something greater than what we have or where we are.
Every. Encounter. Counts.