What is the best concert you ever attended? What is the best thing that has happened to you today? What do you do for fun? When was the last time you had a gut-busting laughter and what created it? If you could sit down with anyone in history and have a conversation, with whom would you choose?
The cost of doing business is going up adversely impacting our bottom line as grocers or retailers. Regulatory issues, compliance, trade wars and online shoppers are making it more challenging to thrive in our industry. What differentiates your store or organization? Specifically, why do employees want to work for you and customers want to shop with you?
There are two primary reasons why employees and customers choose you: location and experience. Let’s take a deeper look at what defines each.
My family and I live right down the street from one of the largest local grocery store chains. This particular location isn’t necessarily the cleanest, cheapest or friendliest. However, it is the closest. As a result, if we need something for guests we are entertaining last minute or a key ingredient to a recipe we are cooking now, we are going to shop at the store right down the street. Location.
When we aren’t shopping last minute, our values change. When we are afforded a choice because time isn’t as much of a concern, we value experience over everything. Curbside grocery pick-up, ease of doing business, world-class service, finding value, employees that know us by name and express a genuine interest are all characteristics of a retailer that we choose to do business with. Experience.
How then can you differentiate your store or organization in the one area in which you have the most control? Creating experiences that people value and memorable customer or employee interactions is the key to mitigating stress, building brand loyalty, reducing attrition and improving your bottom line. Now that we have identified the what (something we are historically very good at), let’s focus on the how (something we aren’t typically as successful in identifying).
I recently had an opportunity to keynote a conference for Santa America, a national association of Santa Claus representatives and Santa helpers. Following the keynote, we did a brief Q&A session. One Santa helper stood up and emphatically asked the following:
“In a world filled with negativity, social injustice, racism, heartache and challenge, what advice would you give us…Santa Clauses, to turn society’s mindset from one of negativity to positivity?”
What a daunting task or goal! Could you imagine being burdened with the thought of how to change the mindset of all of society? How about changing the mindset of the community in which you operate? How overwhelming is it to think about shifting the culture or mindset of just your organization? Your family?
My answer to this particular Santa’s helper was simple. One interaction at a time. If we can show a genuine interest in one person and connect at a deeper level by creating conversation about things that make them smile, that interaction may change the trajectory of their day. It may be exactly what is needed to move them past a challenging moment, stressful day or something that has been burdening them. If we can impact one individual, that person may then go on to inspire another who in turn would help lift up another. One interaction at a time could create the groundswell necessary to alter the mindset of a whole family, organization, community or society!
Although I provided an answer, I advised that I believed that we were asking the wrong question. Think about individuals going through challenging moments in life. Consider consumers that have experienced a long day of work, both physically and mentally exhausted, shopping in our stores. Ponder a cashier, store manager or employee struggling to balance going to school while working to sustain their lifestyle. Where do all of these individuals spend the bulk of their time when faced with these troubling thoughts? The same place you do when trying to keep your doors open and mitigating the challenges of being in business, IN YOUR HEAD.
How do you differentiate your store or organization based on the experience you provide? Challenge yourself to get out of your head and help your family, employees, customers and others do the same.
Fundamism can be defined as the FUNdamentals of a F.U.N. and optimistic lifestyle. Simply put, whatever you do that gives you strength or find FUN is a FUNdamental and falls under the fundamism philosophy. It is my belief that you can’t be in your head about something that makes you anxious, sad or apathetic, while at the same exact time being doing something that makes you smile. Shouldn’t our goal then be to gravitate more towards the things that lift us up as opposed to those that don’t? That’s fundamism.
So, what was the best concert you ever attended? What memories come to mind from the experience? When you are thinking about this FUN time in your life, you know what you aren’t thinking about? Drama. The fact that you are shopping at the grocery store when the only place you want to be is relaxing on the couch. That’s the power of someone showing a genuine interest in you and asking questions that force you to think about things that make you smile, your FUNdamentals.
In my experience, I’ve found that three topics come up in nearly every conversation. We ask about these topics to those we love, friends, co-workers, customers and complete strangers. These topics are work, family and weather. Think about how you engage with those around you. How often do you hear questions like, “what do you do for work?” “How are the kids?” Or, “it sure is cold out there, isn’t it?” These questions are so common that we don’t even have to think about the answers. In addition, sometimes these innocent questions we ask to spark up a conversation or connect with others can actually bring up thoughts of things that are currently stressing out those with whom we interact.
I’m guessing a very common question that you ask your customers, co-workers or employees is, “how is your day going? What if their day isn’t going well? What if they just got into an argument with their spouse, found out some terrible news or have been doing things all day that they don’t enjoy? Your question could send them right back to the negative place that they so desperately want to escape, their head.
“What’s the best thing that happened to you today?” This question is asking how your day is going with a twist. It forces people to think about something good! Do you know what happens when you create an environment that makes people smile? They remember you. People want to work, shop and interact with people that make them feel good. Showing a genuine interest in others and asking more meaningful questions could be a differentiator that makes your brand stand out. Your questions could get them out of their head and challenge them to think about things that give them joy, their FUNdamentals.
Creating a culture of experience based on the philosophy of fundamism will improve your bottom line and most importantly, your overall job satisfaction. Remember that fundamism is defined as the FUNdamentals of a F.U.N. and optimistic lifestyle. Tony Robbins once said that, “energy flows where attention goes.” If your attention is focused on making others feel valued, optimism, things that make people smile and F.U.N., an energy will be created within your organization that attracts the energy you desire.
Let fundamism and F.U.N. be the guiding principles to moving yourself and your organization forward. F.U.N. is not just a word that creates a sense of joy and fulfillment, it also is an acronym that provides direction on what to do next.
F – Foundation
U – Understanding Others’ Perspective
N – Next Steps
The F stands for foundation and is everything in which you or your organization is built upon. What is your mission statement, core values, performance management strategy and what makes you, you? Build a foundation rooted in placing others first and creating an experience that brings them joy, FUN and fulfillment. In doing so, you’ll find that challenges are mitigated while the right customers and employees find YOU.
The U is understanding others’ perspective. You have an idea of what a world-class service experience looks like. What do your customers, co-workers or employees desire? Understanding others’ perspective allows you to find what others value by asking more meaningful questions, showing a genuine interest, altering your communication style to meet others and appreciating our personality differences.
The N is next steps because without the N in F.U.N., it’s just F.U.! Next steps are where you identify your implementation strategy to creating the culture of experience that will drive the desired outcomes you seek. How do you showcase your foundational strengths and understand others’ perspective while mitigating your areas of opportunity as they are being developed?
I can’t provide all the answers in this 1500-word article so I guess identifying your next steps will take some self-reflection and individual thought. Challenge yourself to find ways to get out of your head and help others do the same. It could be the very strategy necessary to differentiate your organization and move it forward in the creation of your very own culture of experience. One that employees want to work for, customers want to shop with and an added bonus? You are reinvigorated by the energy of an environment overflowing with joy, FUN and fulfillment!
Life is finite. Enjoy every moment. Get out of your head and have FUN!
Copyright Paul J Long All rights reserved.