Help me Rhonda…A “Glad” Gram

This weekend we had to renew passports.  If you’ve done it, you know it can be quite a daunting undertaking.  In preparation for an upcoming trip to Haiti, our girl child’s transition from child passport, to adult was the driving factor.  While we were at it, hubby and I thought it a good time to go ahead and renew our international identification booklets, too.  Not that we had international plans of our own, yet you never know when the urge to travel across the pond strikes.  If and when it does, it’s nice to be prepared.  So, that’s three passports for renewal and one, said girl child’s, that needed to be expedited.  Let the adventure begin.

In preparation for all the fun, I’d gone on-line to fill in and check all the boxes for three passports.  Taking on this tedious challenge for those I love so they don’t have to suffer from finger cramps or strain.  Yes, you’ve probably already guess it.  I’m a giver.  And you know what?  I was glad to do it!  Please excuse me while I take a moment to work out the kink in my shoulder – the one I got patting myself on the back.  Anyhoo, this passport seeking trio descended on Walgreen’s photo department.  With superb customer service, smiles and stellar camera skills, Samantha was glad to assist and had us taken care of and out the door in no time.

Now the varying opinions on how the photos turned out, is an entirely different story.  One that has nothing to do with Samantha’s talent behind the camera, rather the subject in front of the camera is the challenge.  I don’t believe I’m speaking out of turn here when I say none of us were overjoyed with the mugshot like 2×2 photos.  Alas, quite the contrary.  Particularly vocal about her strong dislike of the recent photo was the girl child.  She loathed her pic.  And, was adept about expressing her dissatisfaction throughout the remainder of the evening – points for word consistency, but that’s about the only silver lining I’ve got on that one.  Hiding the offensive passport photo until it was absolutely necessary was the defensive survival strategy I chose.

The next day we showed up at our local post office.  With forms and photos in hand, we were ready to renew our little blue books.  We were even smiling!  That is until we saw the sign on the door….”This post office location is no longer processing passports – blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Fortunately, there were other locations listed so back out the door we went, into the car and onto the next postal destination, which wasn’t far.   Just keep smiling!

Once again we piled out of the car, scooped up our paperwork and marched in through the automated glass doors and, once more, we were greeted with yet another sign.  Only this one said, “ Passport renewals by appointment only. “ 

Okay, okay – not a biggie.  We’ll go in, make an appointment for Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday). Everything was going to be just fine.  Right?!  Not so much.  The next available timeslot was over two weeks away AND the same was true for all the other locations in the area.  What?!  We were screwed, blued and tattooed.  Our girl child could see Haiti slipping from her grasp, hubby was, likely, seeing red and me?!  Well, I was desperately trying to see a way out!!  Not much gladness happening.

Enter Rhonda, the owner of the charming voice at the Louisburg Post Office and unsung life saver.  She said said she’d be happy to process our passports right away, if we could get to her before closing…in 40 minutes.  Louisburg is 30 minutes from our home – usually.  Not today!

We arrived in record time (imagine that!).  A friendly blonde was outside the Post Office helping another customer place some large packages into the trunk of car.  She didn’t have a nametag on yet somehow I knew it was Rhonda.  And it was!  As we were walking up to the doors she asked, “Are you my passport people?” We nodded collectively before she added, “Well come on it and let’s get you fixed up!”

How cool is that?  Customer care before we even got in the place? And that was just the beginning.  Rhonda was a one woman show – spreading cheer, kindness, laughter and expertise like butter on warm toast.  Not only did she jump from counter to counter, helping us, then other customers but she also asked our girl child about her passport photo. How gracious!  It went something like this:

Rhonda:  Are you happy with your photo?

Girl Child:  Happy?  Happy?  I HATE that picture.  It’s the WORST thing EVER – the WORST photo in the history of passport photos.  NO ONE’s picture has EVER been worse and I have to LIVE with that awfulness for TEN years.  Might as well just kill me now.

Rhonda (with a big grin):  So, is it safe to assume you don’t like it?

Girl Child (also with a large smile): Was I too obvious?

Rhonda:  I tell you what, I take a pretty good passport photo.  Want to see if you like the one I take better than this one?

NOTE:    The Post office is CLOSED at this point, has been for 10 minutes.  We’re the only ones remaining.

Girl Child:  Oh my gosh, YES!  Please, please, YEEEEESSSSSS PLEASE!!

Needless to say, Rhonda’s photography skills proved to be no less stellar than her customer care and kindness.  Girl child was thrilled with her new passport photo which subsequently thrilled the entire family.  Rhonda then went on to find an error on my passport – yes, I listed my birthdate wrong (I remain sheepish and chagrined), processed our payments, expedited the girl child’s passport arrival, ushered us out the back door AND suggested a place for lunch.

As we walked to the car, all of this got me to thinking.  Rhonda was glad to help (Yes, the Beach Boys were on an endless loop in my head, too) In fact, it was the word she used throughout our time with her – glad.  She was glad to help the other customers who came in, glad to have the chance to assist us, glad to retake the girl child’s photo even after closing time, glad to have the time alone, after we left, to process all the mail from the day and glad to have met us!

Turns out, gladness is catching.

Like the song says, Help me, Rhonda – and she did.  Giving us a crash course in customer care – in what being glad looks and feels like – Rhonda left us all feeling good. We didn’t come into the post office with the expectation of feeling glad, but we sure left that way.  Thank you, Rhonda!

For more “glad” tidings, check out this excerpt taken from:  A Book Report on How To Win Customers & Keep Them For Life By Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D. (Book Report by Gary Tomlinson)!

A Crash Course in Customer Behavior:

If customers buy good feeling and solutions, then it’s your job to know how to provide them.  And that, in turn, means understanding more about the feelings customers have and how they go about making a decision to buy.

The first point to remember is that people buy emotionally and justify with logic.  The second point to remember is that people spend money when and where they feel good.

The Four Emotional States:

According to psychologists, a person is capable of experiencing only four basic emotions.  Those emotions are:

– Glad
– Sad
– Mad
– Scared

At any given point in time a person is feeling either glad, mad, sad, or scared.  That emotional state will govern his behavior.  Customers buy only when they are feeling glad about you and your products and services.

Solutions to Problems: 

A popular marketing axiom states, “People don’t buy goods, they buy solutions to problems.  They don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits, they buy quarter-inch holes.”  When people buy solutions to problems, what they are actually buying is the expectation of feeling glad.

A problem is the difference between what you have and what you want.  So, if you want to solve a customer’s problem, ask him, “What do you have?” (What’s the situation now?) and “What do you want?” (How would you like it to be?)  Once you have the answers to those two questions, you can decide if and how you can solve the problem.  But until you know the answers to those two questions, any problem-solving you do will be purely accidental.

The Right Touch:

Your company may sell the finest products and services in the marketplace, but it’s how customers feel about your products and services that, ultimately determines how successful your business will be.  If they feel good, they’ll buy and come back.  If they don’t, they won’t.  With that thought in mind, here are some key ideas you can use to put the right touch to work where you work.

  1. Put yourself in the glad emotional state. (Act the way you want to feel and soon you’ll feel the way you act)
  2. Never tell customers your problems. (Most of them don’t care.  Telling people your problems makes them sad, and sad people don’t buy as often)
  3. Remember that customers buy for their reasons, not ours.
  4. Act as if you are the only personal contact that the customer has with the company and behave as if the entire company’s image depends on you.
  5. Use both logic and emotion to win and keep customers.
  6. Use the problem-solving approach to move customers from mad, sad, or scared to glad.

In summary, the degree of success of any business hinges on how many people it rewards with good feelings and solutions to their problems and how well it does both.

So go out and make people glad, just like Rhonda.