Wednesday, April 21, 2010

1,000 job interviews

When I was around ten years old my father opened a video store.  My father ran the store by himself from open to close seven days a week. On the weekends and in the summer I would often go with him to help out in the store. It was there, with my father, that I learned a lot about how to be a good worker, and how to treat a customer.

It's hard now-a-days to find a small shop owned by the person behind the counter and it is even harder to find a person at any retail location that is invested in keeping the customers happy. They make the same hourly wage if they smile or not and they don't get paid more if they get the order correct.

My father knew every customer, if not by name than by face. He knew what kind of movies they liked and what they had seen before.  He ran his store without a computer or netflix's complicated recommendation algorithms.  And he treated customer the right way.

Now when I go in to a store the clerk is on their cell phone or just looks like they are half asleep. No smile and no greeting (unless you can consider "what do you want?" or "next!" a greeting). They know next to nothing about what they are selling and I can visit the same restaurant 100 times and order the same thing and the person I have ordered from doesn't even acknowledge that they have ever seen before.

There are exceptions to this. Nicole at the sushi restaurant we eat at recognizes my voice when she answers the phone. She remembers what I normally order and asks if I left off a particular item on purpose.  She asks what my plans for the weekend are and then remembers what I did a week and a half later when I order from there again.  We mostly get take-out but the night we ate at the restaurant she sent over a free desert.

This is restaurant that I will go to over any other. I don't care if there is a cheaper sushi place that has better food and is closer. She has built a relationship with her customers and that is why the place is always busy.

A happy customer is not just one happy customer.  It is 10 new customers.  Those 10 new customers can each bring 10 new customers.  3 generations away from one happy customer and you have 1,000 new customers.  You kept that one customer because you smiled, remembered her name and got her order right.  Or you screwed it up and fixed.  Maybe you gave it to her for free because you screwed it up but the money you lost is worth it when the 1,000 new customers come rolling in. 

I understood this when I was 10.  And I worked my butt off to help keep customers happy the way my dad did.  The problem is that the entry level employee doesn’t see any of the revenue from the 1,000 new customers.  Maybe they should.  Pay them by the happy customer and they will perform better.  They will understand how it works.

I brought this attitude with me when I worked at Dunkin’ Donuts in high school and the tip jar reflected that it works.  I remembered this when I worked at the recording studio and made sure to remember where we ate with certain artists and producers and what they ordered and what they liked.  I wrote it down.  They were super impressed that I recommended a good meal or a good restaurant.  It helped.  Every little thing helps.  They were my customers and doing my job went beyond making sure the mics were set up and working even if it wasn’t in my job description and nobody told me it was part of my job. 

Even after you get the job, every day is a job interview.  You are being interviewed by new customers to see if they are going to be return customers and you are being interviewed by current customers to see if they will recommend their friends. And remember, interviewing with one customer is like being interviewed by 1,000.

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