First, we found ourselves in the bread section, eyeing the pretzel challah. Never seen pretzel challah? It's just what it sounds like: a loaf of challah with a soft pretzel crust. We like challah. And we like soft pretzels. So it seemed like a no-brainer. But, adventurous as we are as eaters, we contemplated a bit about whether to try it. Nearby, a Trader Joe's employee was loading up a bread shelf, and saw us examining the loaf. She asked us if we had tried it and we said no. She said she hadn't tried it either.
"Do you want to try some?" she asked, and before we knew it, she had taken the bread into the back room, sliced it, and returned with samples. On the spot. We tried it. We loved it. We bought it.
Two things struck me about this interaction:
1. It was her idea to sample the bread. She didn't wait for us to ask. She engaged us in conversation.
2. She was flexible enough to stop the task she was working on and sample bread for us instead.
Are you able to read and serve your audience on the spot, or are you so memorized and rehearsed that you can't go off script?
Do you anticipate your audience's needs -- for example, building their possible questions into your presentation so they don't have to ask -- or do you give canned presentations to every audience, regardless of who they are and what interests they have?
Then, if that experience wasn't enough to impress us, we struck up a conversation with another employee while we were snacking on the pretzel challah.
We had wandered in front of a wine display. The wine on the stack was one we hadn't seen before, a blend, and we were curious about it. As we wondered aloud if it was any good, the employee shook his head and said, "You don't want this one...." and turned to the passing wine buyer to ask, "Am I right?" The wine buyer stopped, agreeing with the first opinion.
He said that, for this price point and this flavor profile, we could find several better wines in the store. And then he proceeded to tell me what they were, as I scrambled to write them down in my phone. (Okay, I do wonder why they're even carrying that wine if there are other wines at the same price point and with a similar flavor profile that are better. But hey, I'm not a buyer.)
Are you honest with your audiences?
Or are you so concerned with selling yourself or your product that you don't admit to mishaps or mistakes out of a need to appear perfect? Do you try to shoehorn a fit with your services and product, even when there isn't one?
These examples of excellent customer service also apply to us as speakers. We owe our audiences honesty, flexibility, and proactiveness, and the willingness to serve them based on our best research (or at least anticipation) of their needs and wants.
We've been shopping at Trader Joe's for decades, so we don't need to be sold on their great products and customer service. But these interactions reinforced what we already knew, making us even more loyal customers.
Maybe your audience doesn't know you well, and this is your opportunity to show them you care. Maybe they already know you and this is your opportunity to remind them why they keep hiring you.
Either way, take the initiative. Don't wait for them to ask. Be prepared to give them what they need, want and care about. You will delight the heck out of them!
If you've become a bit lackadaisical about serving your audience, because you're a seasoned speaker who's been there and done that and maybe -- just maybe -- has gotten a bit lazy, check out my free teleclass on October 10: "The Top 3 Mistakes Experienced Speakers Make... And What to Do Instead!" I promise to give you the kick in the pants you need to reinvigorate your speaking!
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