Life Lessons from the Drive-Thru

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Not false or copied; genuine; real. That’s how Webster defines authentic. Is there another word that brings more unnoticed pressure in the business world? In the world of customer service we put a lot of stock into having the right answers at the right time and rightly so. Your customers deserve correct information because they are likely paying good money for it. Let’s put a different spin on this though. Think about this: John C. Maxwell says “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. For me, this has been a driving force behind building authentic relationships.

Make no mistake here. Just like everything else in life there has to be some balance. If you always have the right answer, but have no genuineness behind it then people will see through that. You’ll eventually be perceived as a person with a job that only cares about what your customers need between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. The right answer is sometimes just the bare minimum and rarely reflects any passion to the person needing your help. Being consumed with being right leaves little room for balance. On the other hand, if you are “Mr. Personality” and people love talking to you and cutting up but you rarely deliver any value then eventually the perception will be that you have no idea what you are doing (but you sure are nice). There has to be balance. If you want to have genuine, authentic relationships then you need to know what you are talking about and you need to get to know the person you are talking with.

Steven Covey says “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. Whether we trying to get the most accurate answer out as quickly as possible or we are trying to find out how our customer’s weekend was – we are often forming our responses at the most inappropriate time – when the other person is talking. Believe it or not, there’s likely a lot of value on the other end of the conversation and if we are consumed with our response rather than being consumed with the person we are responding to, then we won’t have to worry about forming authentic relationships because it will never happen.

Not too long ago I went through the Chick-Fil-A drive through. I’m a weekly customer of my local Chick-Fil-A for many reasons, one of those being they have never messed my order up (and they don’t put mayo on ANYTHING by default). While placing my order I made sure to tell them that I needed lots of Chick-Fil-A sauce. Coming home with no sauce is never fun because it means I forgot to ask for it because my wife knows that Chick-Fil-A is never going to forget it. So I pull to the window, get my order and drive off. I didn’t so much as even peek in the bag because…….well, they have never given me a reason to. As I pull off I hear someone yelling “Sir…..Sir…….SIR!!!! STOP, wait just a second”. Did I forget to pay? Did I get my debit card back? Why are they yelling at me? I pulled to the curb and the drive through attendant came walking out to my truck. I rolled the window down and she dumped about 2000 packs of Chick-Fil-A sauce in my bag. “I’m so sorry sir, I completely forgot to give you this and I didn’t want you to get home and be broken hearted”. Needless to say, I was blown away.

That is what customer service is all about. She wasn’t just taking my order – she was listening to me. She didn’t just get it right, she went over the top to make sure she got it right at all costs while injecting a little personality with her “broken hearted” comment. I don’t know her name, what she likes to do in her free time, or even what kind of person she is away from work. I didn’t necessarily form an authentic relationship with her that day, but I know that she genuinely cared about doing her job the right way which meant genuinely caring about me. So take a step back today and learn a lesson from a drive-thru attendant. Listen to your customers, you might be shocked to see how fast your relationships with them turn in to something meaningful and, if you aren’t careful, authentic.

Deliver Your Mission Online

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Virtual Facilities are nothing new; in fact, they have been used for years by groups of people in different locations wishing to collaborate on ideas and projects. Typically these are secure online collaborative workspaces designed to enhance the exchange of information among a project team working from different locations. The term Collaboratory was coined as far back as 1989 by William Wulf while he worked for the US National Science Foundation. Wulf’s vision was a “center without walls”; a place in which the nation’s researchers could interact with colleagues, share data, and access information in digital libraries all from geographically dispersed locations.

Since then, rapid advances in computing and communications technologies, such as the internet, social media and mobile (Smart Phone) technology have made near real-time delivery of information quite common. Average people have become adept at sharing such things as music, photographs, schedules, ideas, opinions and messages all in real time over the internet; to many, this has become their preferred medium of communication with third parties. Recognizing this, many progressive organizations have recently deployed Live Chat technology on their websites, allowing the public to interact directly with sales or customer service staff without having to pick up the phone or visit a facility.

This is just one example of ways that a member-based non-profit organization like the YMCA could extend their brand and their mission beyond the physical boundaries of their bricks and mortar facility. Imagine being able to communicate with a virtual Health Coach where you could get exercise and nutritional advice right from the comfort of your own computer. Some people prefer to exercise outdoors, perhaps jogging or cycling; imagine if these weekend warriors had online tools where they could plan their workouts, set goals and objectives and track their progress—all while being held accountable to their fitness program by their personal trainer who resides inside their iPad. Other compelling virtual solutions include an online Health Assessment, Symptom Checker, Health Calculators, Recipes, Online Learning and Positive Coaching Courses. There is certainly no better way to reach out to today’s youth than through this medium. The opportunities are endless but the journey might seem more daunting than the destination.

In a recent survey I asked several of our YMCA customers if they viewed their websites as a critical tool for mission delivery and the answer was a unanimous “Yes!” The next question I asked them was whether they thought their members found their websites to be a useful source of information and the answer was a resounding “No!”—curious disconnect. It seems that although many progressive member-based nonprofit organizations understand the importance of this medium, few have the time or resources to invest in delivering the online tools that drive member engagement and positively impact the community.

The good news is that most of this technology already exists and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Live Chat again is a good example—there are literally hundreds of different options to choose from—and most of them are easy to deploy and work rather well. Online health and wellness tools are common too, as are learning solutions. The challenge is identifying the best-of-breed providers and integrating their solutions into a useful online offering. For this, finding the right development partner who is focused on mission delivery solutions could be the best answer. While not entirely painless, the dream of a complete and interactive “center without walls” for a member-based nonprofit is not that far off.

James Smith is innovative strategist for Daxko.

Webcast: Measuring Your Mission through Social Impact Planning

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You need a strategy that helps you accelerate your impact. Join the conversation with Tom Massey to learn how our Social Impact Planning can produce significant, measurable improvements in lives and communities. Plus, we’ll introduce you to mission measurement, the elusive concept of using third-party research to validate prevention efforts that produce real results.