I was walking down the street the other day and spied a bookstore. I love browsing through bookshelves and decided to make my way in. As I approached, a young lady, obviously an employee of the store as she sported a name tag, hastily jumped in front of me and made way for the door. I was only steps behind her yet she opened the door, went in, and just let the door shut behind her without so much as any acknowledgement that I was in the vicinity. I’m not a gigantic prude or anything but I thought this was a bit rude. I mean, I normally hold the door when I see someone behind me going the same way. No big deal but not overly friendly or welcoming.
Later that day however, I got to thinking about this little act and it struck me how this little deal was actually a big deal, and the reason it was big was because it sent me a message about the business. Now, I know that the owner of this business and all of the other employees are probably not bad people or anything but the message I got from this employee was one of general disinterest in me as a customer and it set an expectation, probably an unintended one, about the experience I would get.
Given the myriad responsibilities of business, I know most executives and managers don’t think about this too much but everything sends a message about the organization, from the parking lot to the signage to the appearance and actions of your employees. I’ve often relayed the story of Walt Disney admonishing an employee for driving a car within sight of guests enjoying Disneyland. He told the employee that the car simply didn’t fit; it sent a message that was out of place. If a guest was supposed to be in turn-of-the-century America, how could a car be there? Cars weren’t even invented then. The message was wrong. Walt Disney made it clear that everything sent a message and that guests had to get unswerving messages about safety, courtesy, and a consistent “show” experience.
So maybe I’m being overly picky and an employee innocently letting a door shut in front of a customer is no big deal but I think Walt would agree with me, and I doubt anyone would say he didn’t know customers. Take a look at your organization. Take a walk around and really look at things, listen to your people, what are the messages? Do the messages being sent by your business communicate welcome, friendliness, a desire to help, and that things will be easy? If they don’t, what needs to change?