Last month my husband, Joe, asked me if I wanted to “get a bite” at the Italian restaurant around the corner. It is a ‘townie’ place, been there for years, has traditional Italian fare, including great garlic bread, wonderful pasta, and waitresses in their 40’s and 50’s who call everyone “honey.” There is also a small bar in the center of the restaurant with a large flat screen TV over the liquor shelf and an older bartender named Tony, who I always thought was the restaurant’s owner. Why? Because Tony had an attitude problem that an owner or manager would never tolerate, unless they were one and the same.
My initial response to the question posed was “Yes, of course,” since not having to cook is always a win. Joey also said “the Yankees are playing,” and my great night out just went out the window since I am a die hard Red Sox fan here in the throes of northern Jersey. But it wasn’t that that made me want to stay home. I responded, “NO, can you pick up something to go? I’m not in the mood for that bartender.”
Before I go any further you have to understand that this restaurant has one of my favorite dishes, a beautiful blend of thinly sliced eggplant wrapped around ground Italian sausage, spinach and parmesan cheese, baked in a light tomato cream sauce and topped with mozzarella. I’m the sort of person (doesn’t eat carbs) who would “walk a mile for Eggplant Alla Casa,” but in this case all I could think about was Tony.
Tony the bartender was a curmudgeon…yes, a cranky old man, who never smiled and although not horribly unpleasant (after all he was in a people-oriented, customer service position), he never made us feel welcome, even in all the years we had patronized this restaurant. Lately we had been sitting at the bar to eat, as did many of the other ’empty nester’ couples in our town.
But Tony never seemed interested in welcoming us, or making conversation. In fact, he seemed just the opposite; like we were interrupting his evening. When we asked for a beer he didn’t carry, we would get an earful about how “we quit carrying that line since the salesmen never called on us.” More than once, I asked myself, “why do I keep coming here?”
The answer always came back to Eggplant Alla Casa, and trying to give Tony the benefit of the doubt, (maybe he was having a bad day…for the last ten years). But this time, I decided NOT to patronize a place that made me feel uncomfortable.
I began to think about why customers are loyal to companies, stores, bars, and restaurants…when they are purchasing a product or service not clearly differentiated from any other. You go to, buy from, and hang out, in places where people like you. Those people could be behind the counter, or behind a desk, or at the other end of the phone. But they are happy to see you and have you as a customer. They make you feel special, wanted, “at home” with their attitude, values, and maybe even their selling technique. Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
I think customers buy how you make them feel. Your customers will not buy from people they don’t like or who make them uncomfortable. Oh, they’ll have the usual excuse that you have heard before: too expensive, no flexibility, bad return policy…but I bet that it all stems from a nagging, negative “Tony-feeling,” about the interaction.
So my advice is this: Look in the mirror before you pick up your office phone to take an incoming call. If you are not smiling, or don’t feel like talking, let it go to voicemail. Don’t bring your drama down on the person who is calling you. They don’t deserve it, and they are looking for you as a party entertainer to lighten their load, put some spring in their step, and bring sunshine to their event. Make it easy for them to book with you by being the MOST warm, wonderful, helpful person that you can be.
And while we are on the subject of phone etiquette, don’t answer if you are yelling at your kids, or your dog, or dinner is burning on the stove…I guarantee that if you do, you might lose the booking. Tony the bartender had a general demeanor of CRABBY, regardless of when you saw him.
But you, you are a party entertainer and your life is filled with rainbows and butterflies–or at least should seem like it is to the incoming caller.
EPILOGUE: We did go to the restaurant that night, and found a beautiful, well-dressed, energetic lady named Denise behind the bar. Friendly and smiling, she put out our drink napkins and greeted us with “Thanks for coming in folks, how you doing?” Tony, as it turned out, was not the owner and had been given his walking papers. Denise was a delight, and we now go to the restaurant weekly. I have even ordered other entrees besides Eggplant Alla Casa. People don’t buy what you do…they buy because of how you make them feel.
How do you make your customers feel?
Do you ever feel like a “Bag Lady” walking into the host’s house? Don’t have a free hand to shake, or help keep the door open, while you drag all of face painting stuff through it? Ever worry about hitting the molding, taking out a MING vase, or just making a fool of yourself trying to squish 40 pounds of equipment through a narrow doorway?
And then, you learn the dreaded truth…you are to set up in the BASEMENT! Oh yes, easy for her to say…she is not toting an entire makeup factory worth of products, plus table, plus hair, plus purse, plus water bottle, plus box after box of BLING.
Put aside those dreaded entry nightmares, and go HANDS FREE! Now you can walk into each and every gig feeling like WONDER WOMAN herself! Check out the new back strap chair harness from those inventive ladies at the Art Factory!
I bought three of them so they can stay attached to the director’s chairs all the time. It makes you feel more organized and frees up both hands, for carrying other items or reaching out to meet your host.
Remember, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. Don’t let your excess paraphernalia affect how you look or feel when you greet your client.
*Wonder Woman makeup, courtesy of Corey Morgan.