In the landmark leadership book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie talks about the importance of “approbation.” This term is not widely used today, but it means to approve of or compliment someone in earnest. People crave acknowledgement and encouragement; it’s a lost art to simply say something nice. Unfortunately, some people have become cynical and distrustful of the smallest compliment – however, for the vast majority of your customers, sincere flattery goes a long way in building quality, long term relationships.
You already have a level of trust when a new customer choses to walk in your door. If you do good quality work, that trust is reinforced and grows. But you’re not the only guy in town that does good work. How you make that customer “feel” is a big part of why they will come back – or not. All of us have lost a good customer, not because we did poor work, but because we didn’t treat them the way they thought they should be treated. Did you make the young mom feel like her children were annoying you? Or perhaps treat an older gentleman with arrogance of superior knowledge, resulting in a painful shot to his ego?
Would you like to make these some of your best customers? With a little conscious effort, you can. Acknowledge the challenges of young parenting and point out something good that you see the child or parent doing; this is especially effective if you are an older parent yourself. Treat that gentleman to a cup of coffee and with great respect ask him about his contribution to society? Compliments create lifelong, faithful customers, much more than the service or product you provide will.
Complementing people gives them a sense of value. It says, “I see you, not just your bill.” Statistical trends tell us that for most service industries, your #1 clientele is now women. Male sales persons and managers should learn to give appropriate “approbation” that will be comfortably received by your female customers. For example, sincerely complimenting on a house remodel or a new car – the owner (whether male or female) had to put in a great deal of thought and money – obviously they must like it. Acknowledge the investment. And if you like it, say you like it!
I’m not advocating lying to your customers. I am advocating to purposely see your customers as people first. Find something nice you can say that will put a smile on their face before they leave your door. You’ll be pleasantly surprised on the return you get when you are “hearty in your approbation, and lavish in your praise.”
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