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A Gem From Jen Kahtz – The Benefits of Human Connections

The Benefits of Human Connections – By Jen Kahtz

Do you live in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors? Do you meet up in the driveway and chat? Can you pass a couple of cloves of garlic to your back fence neighbor when he discovers he’s out in the middle of preparing bolognese? Would you feel safe asking your next door neighbor to water your indoor plants while you’re on vacation?

Or are you like me, living in a neighborhood where a wave hello is the most intimate you’ll get with the people with whom you share your block In today’s world, I wonder if fostering scenario A would cure much of what ails modern society. But that’s a discussion for another day. I bring this up, though, because if you’re a business owner, the way you relate to your customers and your staff has a HUGE impact on your success.

Here’s a really good example from Diane DeCocq, owner of Haven Home and Property Inspections. She had just completed a home inspection for a new client. The homeowner walked her out front as she was preparing to leave. Finishing with a little friendly chit chat, the homeowner’s postal worker stopped and pulled up next to them.

“Hey, Mark!” she said. “Still ready to have your mail forwarded to your new home on the 6th? I want to make sure there’s a smooth transition for you.” “Hi Shelley! Yes, we’ll be all set for the 6th. Thanks for taking good care of me.” The homeowner, Mark, knew his postal worker by name. And she was willing to go the extra mile to help him out. Right behind her, the garbage truck came rumbling through the neighborhood. When it arrived at Mark’s house, the driver stopped and got out of his truck. “Hey Mark, how’s it going? We’re doing your last pickup on the 6th, right?” “Hey Manny, yep, last pickup on the 6th. Thank you! Say hello to your family for me, won’t you?” said Mark. Okay, thought Diane, this is really unusual. This guy knows both his postal worker and garbage collector’s names. He’s got both of them working for him!

Diane got to thinking about this. She wondered what it would be like to say hello, maybe spend a few minutes chatting with the workers and people in her neighborhood once in a while. What difference would it make to them? To her??

Diane decided right then that she would make a better effort at engaging on a human level with the people with whom she interacted. “People-ing” she called it. We all need to get better at “people-ing.” That night, as she stopped to pick up a few groceries, she asked the cashier at the store about her day. The cashier seemed stunned that anyone actually asked her about her day…that was the standard greeting she gave to each of her customers in line, but never got a genuine query back. So far, so good.

A few days later, Diane and her wife were doing some shopping at the mall. They did some “people-ing” there, too. They also wound up with a hot tip on a sale coming up and a coupon for an extra 20% off the day’s purchase. Not a bad testimonial for the power of human connection! Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting “people-ing” for the sake of getting better service or discounts. Those things are a byproduct of making a genuine, meaningful effort to connect to those you encounter as the human beings they are. It makes them feel good, it makes you feel good, and yes, it’s good for business.

Kumbaya and Commerce??

I’m not asking you to sit around the campfire and sing with your clients. And I’m not suggesting all these warm fuzzies because I’m a tender-hearted snowflake.

I’m suggesting you start people-ing because it’s good for you and it’s good for your business.

(Call me a capitalist-tender-hearted snowflake, if you must. I won’t mind at all.)

Your customers are the heart of your business. You know it, and they know it, too. It makes good sense to foster a rich connection between company and customer.

Your customers are the heart of your business. You know it, and they know it, too. It makes good sense to foster a rich connection between company and customer.

But don’t take my word for it!

Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, interviewed business giants about this very topic. Wade Foster, founder of Zapier, goes to unusual lengths to create connections with new hires. Since so much of their work is done remotely, he takes them to an Airbnb so that they can meet and connect with the founders to create employees who are fully invested in their new company.

Author Michael Gelb, president of The High Performance Learning Center, says that connecting with employees creates workers who feel valued, and those workers will be much more engaged and involved in the company.

Gelb says that not everyone comes by this ability to make deep connections naturally. He suggests “practicing” on those people you meet in your everyday lives.

That’s people-ing! And once you get more comfortable with it, you’ll be able to do it with your employees and customers much more easily.

People-ing 101

Here are several ways you can foster deeper connections with your customers.

Go beyond demographics to get to know them with conversation. It’s not enough to know just the basics of the age, gender, and household income of your target market. Getting to know how your buyers spend their free time, what their values are, and what goals they want to achieve will clarify how to communicate and market to your audience.

Walk in their shoes. Walk through your customer’s buying experience yourself. If it’s possible to do this anonymously, great! If that’s not possible, send a “shopper” in your stead who can give you honest, impartial feedback.

Humanize your company. An “about” page is critical for your website. You got into this business for a reason…tell your audience all about it! You may have a great product or service to share, but if you don’t share your drive and passion, your story, you’ll come off as cold and impersonal. We’ll take a deep dive into how to write your story in an upcoming blog…stay tuned!

Create a community. Having a place to share ideas and communicate with customers keeps them engaged. Many companies do this through a social platform like Facebook or Instagram. Providing great content will keep you top of mind with your clients so they’ll think of you when they need you again and they’ll refer you to others. Invite your clients to post pictures of how your company is working in their lives. Lululemon, an active-wear company, encouraged their customers to post pictures of themselves in their clothes with the hashtag #thesweatlife. What a great way to generate buzz! Keep an eye on the comments so that you can be sure to respond in a timely and personal manner.

Host an event. An excuse to have in-person connections builds even tighter bonds. Host a wine and cheese event, an open house, or a customer appreciation party. If an in-person event doesn’t work for your business, host an online webinar or Facebook Live event. You can still interact in real time with your customers.

There’s no doubt about it, the world needs human connection. We need to feel more together than apart, more the same than different. Making an effort to do more people-ing will make you a better citizen, a better neighbor, and a better business owner.

And you should ever need a cup of sugar, a clove of garlic, or some marketing advice, this capitalist-tender-hearted snowflake will be happy to open the door and say, “Come on in, let’s chat!”

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