The Mirror Test: Perceptions Are Everything.

Have you ever looked in the mirror when you speak to someone? Here’s a better question, have your employees ever looked in the mirror to experience firsthand how your customers perceive them?

During a recent trip to North Dakota, I spent time with a client visiting new distributors of his product to ascertain the market and distributor viability. Knowing that his products are in high demand in North Dakota, the trip was less about “hoping” we’d find a distributor that fit our needs, and more about screening dozens of distributors who are literally dying to carry his products.

It was near the end of our second day when we stopped by a promising distributor. We promptly met Amy at the front desk, and after a few minutes it was clear that (A) she wasn’t the individual who could answer our questions, and (B) she wasn’t going to introduce us to someone who could.

Not a big deal, we’ve all dealt with gate keepers before and to be honest, I’m sure she’s seen her share of people come knocking at the door wanting to bend the ear of the General Manager.

But Amy really struck a nerve, not just for me, but for my client as well. Why? Her attitude.

Amy was terse, didn’t smile, looked at her watch several times (in our two minute conversation) and gave me the impression that she didn’t have the time or patience to listen to us. To put it bluntly, after speaking with my client following the meeting that we eventually got when the General Manager stumbled upon our awkward conversation, Amy was rude.

Now to be honest I don’t think Amy knew how we were interpreting her, and possibly she didn’t care. But a quick look in the mirror would have been a valuable exercise for her during our discussion. Worse yet, in watching how Amy dealt with other co-workers, I don’t think her attitude was isolated to our interaction.

When it comes to your employee’s interactions with other employees or outside vendors, how are they perceived? If poorly, does the employee realize it? Do they know what perceptions they are creating in the minds of others?

I realize at this point you might be thinking, “but come on Shawn, I don’t care about how my employees are perceived by other employees or vendors, as long as they do their work and are nice to customers.”

If this is your perception, let me ask you a question. If your employee appears to switch to a friendly and personable person when customers come around, how long do you think he can keep this charade up? I mean, if everyone around the employee perceives that he is grumpy or rude, how long before this leaks into customer interactions?

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so ensuring that employees understand how they are perceived by others is a critical component of ensuring every customer interaction is a positive one.

In our case we chose not to work with the distributor, as it was clear that Amy would be our main point of contact, and my client, the CEO of a very large manufacturing company, knows that if Amy gives others the same perception as she did us, then he doesn’t want her even remotely connected with his products or company brand.

© Shawn Casemore 2016. All rights reserved.