Archive for May, 2013

South earns its reputation for hospitality

I recently spent a week in the Deep South, exposed to a culture and lifestyle that differs greatly from that of my home state of Maine.

While the food was heavier (think deep fried pickles) and the pace a bit slower than what we’re use to in the Northeast, the courtesy of the people lived up to its reputation.

People at nearly every turn and every venue, from Atlanta Braves staff to passengers on public transportation, were exceedingly polite to this visitor, with extra helpings of Sir and Thank you. After a few days, I began to think my humble Thank You was insufficient, and started adding a Ma’am or Sir.

The South certainly doesn’t have an exclusive on courtesy — I’ve seen shop owners in New York City go far out of their way to help a tourist — but in terms of consistency, the South gets my vote.

I wonder if the common denominator is that Southerners see people as fellow human beings, while those in the fast-pace, always-on-the-go Northeast see coworkers, vendors, and customers. Either way, it speaks to the power of culture, and its impact on the smallest of interactions.

Your turn. What differences have you seen among cultures or regions?

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A lesson in customer service from Frank Burns

In one of the early episodes of the popular television show M*A*S*H, bumbling Frank Burns tries to impress a shapely 20-something who was visiting the camp. When she commented how nice everyone was, his pithy reply was, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”

Oddly, old ferret face is right. I’ll explain.

Saturday was errand day for me: supermarket, gas station, department store, office supply store, etc. Between stops I made a couple of phone calls to stores and customer service numbers. Clearly, a very exciting day.

What really struck me was how terrific (and nice) everyone was. For example, I called Staples a couple of times, and both employees I spoke with were helpful and incredibly polite. While neither was able to completely grant my request, their attitude left me feeling okay about that.

Later, I visited our local Staples, and came across one of the employees I’d spoken with earlier. Despite being interrupted by me several times, he remained pleasant and very helpful. When I reached the cash register, the young woman there was also very friendly.

While this might sound like an ad for Staples, it’s simply the story about the impact of good service, which begins with being nice to customers.

On the other hand, I recently heard a story about a customer who called a tire company about a quality issue. He was unhappy with their resolution, and shocked to hear the representative tell him, “Take it or leave it.” Clearly, the customer has taken his business elsewhere, and I’ve made a mental note to steer clear of that brand, too.

Your turn. Do you make purchase decisions based on how you’re treated?

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