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Acknowledge Your Customers – And the Cost of the ‘Executive Stretch’

You’ve probably experienced a similar frustration.

You arrive at a place of business. You are the customer. You are there to seek out a product or service that’s of value to you and you are willing to pay for it.

You know that the business you are visiting needs customers like you. Without you, the business cannot thrive.

But as seems to be the case these days, you arrive at the counter to ask for help or place your order.

You stand there.

And stand there.

Not once does any representative of the business so much as acknowledge your presence.

You are invisible. What a wonderful way for a business to show its thanks – to act like you don’t exist.

It is a scene that plays out more times than we can count, and just the other day, it could have happened to me – as it often does – but it didn’t.

I recently stopped into a local shop to grab a quick lunch. The lady behind the counter was working hard and she had multiple customers waiting in line.

“Good afternoon, sir,” greeting me as she did with a smile and a warm show of gratitude for my having stopped in. “I’m running just a bit behind but I’ll be right with you.”

“Thank you, I’m in no hurry,” I responded with a reciprocal smile.

And I meant it.

Yes, I had things to do and places to be. But the duration of time it will take me to reach my frustration threshold is much longer when someone shows me the courtesy of simply acknowledging me.

Ignore me, and that frustration comes much sooner.

Every business relies heavily on the trust of its customers, but the surest way to destroy that trust is to ignore them.

What a waste of an opportunity that is.

In an era dominated by the likes of Amazon and other online centers of commerce, the advantage of being able to interact directly with customers, face to face, eye to eye, is one of the few competitive advantages that exist for traditional store-front businesses.

But it’s an advantage that’s chronically and insufferably squandered. And the result is an almost imperceptible erosion of trust that comes with real costs, a laziness tax, if you will.

Sure, you can ignore customers once, twice, maybe 20 times and they will keep coming back.

But one day they won’t. And it ‘s debatable whether or not the executives at headquarters – that’s right, the ones who should be teaching and inspiring their employees to have healthy attitudes about the value of customers – will even realize it’s happening or why.

In my book, The Superior – A Better Way to Be the One in Charge, I tell the story of Joe Bonacci, the owner of a popular sandwich shop in Pennsylvania. Mr. Bonacci purchased the fledgling chain in the 1950s and grew it into a local success story by inspiring the commitment of his employees to a foundational principle of business excellence: The food tastes better when the service is good.

It was something Mr. Bonacci believed to his core, and his employees believed it too because it was reinforced over and over again from the moment they were hired and trained.

And if the food tastes good, guess what happens? People keep coming back.

If you watch any professional long enough, or if you spend enough time observing how the members of a team or organization conduct themselves, you will eventually come to recognize what’s important to them.

What should be important to any business is the trust of its customers.

What’s important to you?

As a business – whatever kind of business you are – your customers see you as an authority. This means they see you as having the expertise and capability of giving them what they want in a particular moment of need.

If you or your team members can’t even summon the energy to offer waiting customers a quick hello or the slightest acknowledgment that they’ve even entered your store, then what else are you not willing to do?

What else should your business not be trusted to do when it’s being counted on?

Yes, many of the representatives of the businesses we frequent are youngsters still in school and working part-time jobs to earn some money. There’s a million other things they’d rather be doing with their time and sometimes it shows.

But the responsibility lies with the owners and/or executives who are supposed to care about customer experience. As businesses become more bureaucratically stretched and the connective distance between the decision-makers and the customers becomes too great, we will begin to observe apathy among the actual service providers, apathy that comes to frustrate the customers who should otherwise be enjoying or appreciating the chance to have their needs met.

Never squander this opportunity. Give your customers the one thing they will appreciate most, and the one thing that doesn’t cost you a dime in overhead – the courtesy of being acknowledged.

John M. Collins is an Authoritative Leadership and Expertise Coach at Critical Victories in Southfield, Michigan. He specializes in supporting clients in authoritative, high-stakes occupations requiring high levels of expertise to earn and retain the trust of the public or other consequential stakeholders. John shares some of his unique philosophies and insights on high-stakes leadership in his 2022 book, THE NEW SUPERIOR – A BETTER WAY TO BE THE ONE IN CHARGE (, available in hardcover and audio. 

John works with people, teams, and organizations across the United States and oversees. If you are serious about expanding your leadership effectiveness, click below to request a free client strategy call:

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