I enter the grocery store like a bank robber: I have a list of “demands”, an almost desperate and pained look on my face, and I keep my eyes peeled for the closest route of escape should someone in line in front of me threaten to pay with pennies or whip out a stack of coupons as thick as a medical dictionary.
Yeah, I don’t like shopping.
So the other day when I was at the check out at a Harris Teeter grocery store in a small Virginia town, it dawned on me that Harris Teeter hires better-than-average employees. I base that on all of the experiences I’ve had with the chain. But my last check out experience helped me to put my finger on what Harris Teeter employees do better than the rest.
I had some groceries on the belt to get me through a late night snack, a couple of breakfasts and lunches. I ached for something wickedly sweet, so I grabbed a bag of Chex Mix Muddy Buddies.
When she came to my bag of sweets, the cashier held it up with a smile.
“Hey!” she said excitedly,” This is like the Puppy Chow I make at home. It’s pre-made! How cool is that? Now I won’t have to go home and make it tonight!”
I joked back with her that simple pleasures are everywhere if you take the time to look for them.
“You got that right,” she gushed. “Honestly, I have to say that this little discovery means that my pants are never gonna fit me right again!”
I gave her a conspiratorial look. “Do you know what the best part of this is for me? My partner here doesn’t eat sweets. So I get the whole bag to myself!”
That’s when the cashier did something unusual. She came out from behind the register and held out her fist:
“D’you know what? That comment earned you a fist bump!”
We bumped fists over the simple pleasure of discovering our mutual joy of sweets.
Disengaged employee don’t establish eye contact. They don’t smile or engage in small talk with customers or even coworkers. They view the world through crap-colored glasses, expecting to see foul things at every turn.
But engaged employees look you in the eye. They smile and joke and laugh. Engaged employees look for commonalities they share with their customers or collegues. They “show up” each day at work not just with their bodies, but also with their hearts and minds.
Jocelyn and I left the store laughing about the fist bump. Who insists that a customer earned a fist bump? An engaged employees does, that’s who. The good feeling we experienced and the continued laugh happened because one employee took pleasure in her job and looked for a way to create a memorable experience for a couple of customers in her line.
And I don’t remember thinking once during that time about how much I hated shopping.
Do your employees find ways to make customers feel good, to make customers feel like they are part of something exciting?