Friday, June 20, 2014

What? This Old Thing?

This morning in the locker room, I complemented a young man on his shoes.  They were a nice looking pair of grey deck shoes.  He said, “Oh thanks.  They’re Polo’s but they were only $35 at Macy’s.”  As he waved good-bye and walked away, I wondered why did he tell me they were only $35?

It’s not the first time I’ve contemplated this type of reaction because I think I do it all the time.  My wife will say, “That shirt really looks nice on you,” and I’ll respond, “I’ve had this shirt a long time, got it off the sale rack.”  My golf buddies will complement me on a nice drive and I’ll generally say something like, “Yeah, I was due to get lucky sooner or later!”  When I informed my sisters that Jan and I had booked a cruise, I hastily explained that we had free rewards flights to New Orleans, and listed all the financial discounts that made the cruise “a really good deal!”  Why do I do this?  Do you ever catch yourself doing the same thing?

The “what” of this is fairly clear to me—we devalue the complement as if, in a self-depreciating way, we don’t really deserve it and deprive the one making the favorable observation from their opportunity to do or say something positive.  The result is that neither of us benefits from the well-intended statement; I shrug it off by minimizing it (and myself), and the complementer is cheated from the positive feeling of paying a tribute to me.  Now the huge difference between Jan and me is that, when I say, “You look really fit, I can tell you’ve been working out hard,” she’ll say “Thanks!”  I wait for the disclaimer that doesn’t come.  She simply says “Thanks”, or “I appreciate that!” 

So now I’m left unable to answer the “why” of my behavior. Do I need to maintain an image of frugality and make sure everyone knows that really sharp shirt was on the sale rack?  Do I feel I will be judged by being too extravagant and irresponsible with my funds?   Do I/we just feel some vague sense of discomfort hearing something positive about ourselves, like, perhaps, we don’t warrant it? Is it a mindset incubated by depression-era parents who made me clean up every plate set before me, even when it was liver and onions?  Probably. 

I haven’t figured this out yet, but this week when I drill a 250 yard drive straight down the middle of the fairway, I’m going to smile a little and simply say “Thanks!”  I’ll change the behavior first and keep trying to figure out the inclination.  Help me out—what do you think?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

May I Help You?

This morning, in the locker room following my workout, I overheard two older men musing about the state of the world.  As aging baby-boomers tend to do, they opined about any number of things.  I paid little attention as they were discussing the demise of the service industry within our culture until one gentleman said, “Take the concierge at any hotel, for instance.  They are a dying breed because if you want a good restaurant or to find out where the museum is, all you have to do is google it.”  The use of the ‘C’ word immediately caught my attention because, if you glance again at the top of the page, you’ll see that concierge holds a place of distinction on our website and is the cornerstone to our approach to working (read serving) our clientele.

My first reaction was to jump into the conversation and defend the service industry in general and concierges in particular.  I restrained myself because one, I know the futility of arguing with old men, being one myself, and two, I realized I should pay attention to the possibility and implications of his discourse.

Several years ago, our team adopted the model of a concierge because we believed it characterized the manner in which we desired to engage our partners.  If you’ve ever used the services of a concierge, you may have experienced the process they utilize to be of service to you.  Let’s say you are seeking a good restaurant followed by some musical entertainment and you are new in town.  A good concierge will undertake four tasks that will help him/her be of service to you: Data Collection/Needs Assessment, Capacity Building, Strategic Planning and Implementation, and Evaluation and Sustainability.  You’ll get the type of food you are looking for within your price range, the reservation and taxi ride will be established within your specifications, you’ll be grateful that you knew the appropriate attire—and  carried your umbrella—and the concierge will greet at the end of the evening with, “How was your meal?”

One of the 60’s-something was explaining to the other how technology and the internet had “flattened” out the world and, while information may be available through key strokes, knowledge and meaningful experiences reside within interactions with others.  Most of us, I trust, don’t live in the movie world of HER.  Technology cannot replace connectedness.  The internet can lead us to a location but it doesn’t supply us with the richness of a relationship with others.  However, the gentleman poses a good argument as we use the ATM, check-in with our flight on a kiosk, bag our own groceries and we have been pumping our own gas for decades.  Do we need anybody for anything?  The Huffington Post reported in April of 2013 that 18% of Americans polled thought that robots/sexbots would be available by 2030 and almost 10% said they would hook-up if they could.  Lord!

I feel a little better when I look at the Concierge Approach website and reread our tagline—Data doesn’t change behavior, inspiration does!