Break the Glass – Listen

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If you’re like me, these unusual days are starting to run together. As this health and economic crisis widens and endures, many of the business leaders reaching out to me are becoming increasingly anxious and, in some cases, immobilized. I don’t want that to happen to you! So, I’m starting this series, which I call “Break the Glass – It’s Action Time.”

Irrespective of your age, none of us has faced a challenge of this type or on this scale in our business or personal lives. As such, there is no clear path through the coronavirus maze. Of course, that won’t stop bad actors from trying to exploit fear by guaranteeing you they have THE MAGIC SYSTEM, PLAN, OR PRODUCT to assure your physical or financial health. Beware of quick fixes or gurus who swagger as if THEY know THE way.

That said, there are some behaviors that will do more harm than good and others that will position you and your business with momentum to attack a post-COVID-19 world. Each installment in this series will explore one of the following constructive behaviors…

  • Listening to the needs and pain of your team and customers
  • Letting people know if/when you are open
  • Offering value, thought leadership, and kindness
  • Nurturing relationships

This week let’s focus on listening to the needs and pain of your team and customers.

I have been surprised by how quickly some owners, leaders, and managers have lost their focus on the people who create their success. Those leaders certainly prioritized team members and customers when business was good, but due to panic prompted by threats of business survival. In essence, self-preservation leads to “self-absorption.”

It’s understandable that people will narrow their focus in crisis, but let me give you an example of how extreme this can get by excerpting an email sent by a national restaurant chain to its loyalty club members. I won’t name the restaurant brand, out of respect, but you’ll clearly see how this communication has almost nothing to do with the needs of customers and everything to do with the needs of the brand.

The subject line of the email read We need you. After mentioning this being a difficult time “all over the country,” the email goes on to note:

“that local businesses are in desperate need of … support from our local communities.  … As a member of <our loyalty program> we are calling on you to support your local <restaurant>. Please consider reaching out and placing a carryout order today. Or maybe call them for a catering order to bring to your local business. Any support that you can give would be greatly appreciated.”

While some customers will surely respond to this call to action, I suspect this brand would have approached this communication differently if they hadn’t focused on themselves in what they refer to as a time of desperate need.

What if they would have focused on the desperate needs of their customers and then positioned their service as a possible solution to meet their customers’ needs? Since I’m using a restaurant as an example, I will contrast this approach with a client of mine that I have praised recently.

The positive example is Sonny’s BBQ. Sonny’s has literally reached out to some of its Q club members (loyalty community) by phone after those customers placed a recent online order. I’ve participated in making those calls, so let me give you a first-hand account of how these calls go. I will alter the name of the customer for his privacy, but otherwise, this is how the call went.

Hello John, this is Joseph Michelli. I am part of the senior leadership team at Sonny’s BBQ restaurant and I wanted to personally thank you for buying from our store in Largo, Florida. John says, “I can’t believe your calling me.” To which I say, “John we are grateful for your business. How was the experience and how are you weathering the times we are in?” John goes on to talk about the impact of coronavirus on his family, expresses positives about his experience at curbside delivery, and reports that he will come back and visit Sonny’s soon. I share that I am glad he is safe and that he had a positive experience with Sonny’s. I thank him for considering Sonny’s again and also let him know this call was not made to drive a repeat purchase but simply to say thank you. It is at this point in the call that magic happens. John begins crying and says, “I can’t believe you called – I am nobody.” My response was simply, “John, you are somebody. You are our customer. Thank you.”

Our job as leaders NOW is to find moments to rise above our own fear and uncertainty to assure your team members and customers that they are somebody and truly matter to you. Many of us have said those types of words in the past. Now is the time to prove it through action and not by asking them to make you matter by pressuring them to rescue you! Look for my next installment in this series, “Break the Glass – It’s Crisis Action time for your Business.”

Also, please feel free to “break the glass” and reach out to me. I look forward to spending some of my time listening to your needs and pain. I can be reached here.

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