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Say hello

Me and my old roommate Greg went shopping in New York city today. We made a point of saying “hello how are you?” to every single store attendant we saw before asking for help.

I do this very often in Chicago too. More surprising than the fact that nobody else in line seems to do the same, is the fact that employees are always surprised as well. Often times they accidentally interrupt saying “how can I help you” before I can even finish. And sometimes they don’t know how to respond at all.

I propose the idea that each of us should do more of this everyday. Put more value on the human connection. And make people we transact with feel important.

But today’s world makes this more challenging.  In today’s technology driven economy, profit margins are lower and stores need more customers to than ever to make money.  So often times companies prize efficiency over good customer interactions. Likewise, customers today are in a hurry and more demanding than ever. So customers equally forget about the value of spending 20 seconds to speak to someone else.

But that’s just the problem. That’s why customers aren’t loyal. It’s why they don’t go back to your store again. It’s why they won’t go out of their way to support your idea or invest in your business. It’s also why employees can sometimes have really bad days at work. And why demanding customers will rarely get their way.

I propose the idea that both parties should put more value on the human connection. Companies need to balance the importance of efficiency with the value of human contact.  Customers should more time being nice to the people we interact with.

In the end, the interaction will be significantly better for both sides.  Employees will be more willing to help you out.  And you might just make the employee’s day.  All by Saying Hello.

  1. January 16th, 2013 at 10:16 | #1

    @Mbali Wonderful insight. When I was in Nairobi, Kenya last year, I also noticed how the greetings were extended and more friendly. Big cities could certainly learn a lot from these cultures. Like you, I also do it on the phone with almost perfect consistency now. While I initially began doing it because it seemed to give better results in the end, today that’s no longer the case. Not only do I do it out of habit but also because people are more receptive and friendly in return. Perhaps the biggest thing we can do any day is a small act of kindness.

    Thanks for commenting.

  2. January 16th, 2013 at 08:19 | #2

    I picked up this great habit while living in South Africa for 3 years, where full greetings are standard in every interaction. Now that I’m back in New York I always say it to reps on the phone and in person and quite often they respond with, “how can I help you?!” with irritation. It’s a shame that many companies have given “efficiency” precedence over human connection, but hopefully this will start to change as it becomes more obvious the old model isn’t the most effective.

  3. January 10th, 2013 at 06:54 | #3

    @Michelle Brilliant comment! I completely agree. When I normally do this I have three sets of people in mind. The “cafeteria workers” of sorts who for me, serve as restaurants like Subway. The cleaners and staff that work at my firm, since so many people in my extended family have come from cleaning positions. And the homeless people I run into, as there are so many of them in Chicago. I make a point to say hello to every single person that I can. After years of doing it, it’s very normal and I couldn’t imagine not doing it at this point.

  4. Michelle
    January 6th, 2013 at 20:27 | #4

    I think this is especially important when communicating with people in the less appreciated positions. I’ve seen it when I was in the classroom and currently as a consultant. I’m talking about the janitors, security guards, cafeteria workers, admins, etc. These people have crucial jobs, but people higher up on the org chart often treat them like untouchables. All it takes is a genuine “Hello, how are you?” and they begin to feel valued and respected.

    In my own experience, my kindness paid off by remembering my manners when interacting with the school janitor. Not only did she aid me quickly during any classroom emergencies, but she also shared information I was not privy to that helped me a lot as a first-year teacher.

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