Do you understand how long an impression lasts? Do you really?
Standing in line to vote one election day, I struck up a conversation with the 70-ish year old guy next to me. More accurately, he struck up a conversation with me. Let’s call him Chatty Charlie (which is a pretty darn accurate description, by the way).
Chatty Charlie & I talked about many things that day, but only one topic stands out in my memory. During our lengthy conversation, Chatty Charlie discovered that I had once lived in Okemos, Michigan, a suburb of Lansing/East Lansing.
Charlie excitedly told me, “Oh I’ve been to Okemos. Stayed in the WORST Holiday Inn EVER when my daughter was at Michigan State.“
Needing absolutely no prompting to continue, Charlie filled in the blanks for me. “The room was dirty, the bed was broken, and when we complained to the front desk, they did absolutely nothing about it. They just didn’t care at all!“
Charlie’s passion & enthusiasm for his story indicated this must have been a recent experience, a fresh wound. But as Charlie ranted, I determined he seemed a bit too old to have a co-ed daughter anytime in the past decade.
“When did you stay at that hotel?” I had to know. Either he was a really old dad or had held a really long grudge. Turns out my suspicions about the grudge were spot on.
He told me when his daughter had graduated. I quickly did the math. Well, I did the math as quickly as I could. Math and I are barely on speaking terms, even today.
If my math was correct, though, Chatty Charlie was still enthusiastically complaining about an event that he had experienced SEVENTEEN YEARS earlier.
A few years have past since that conversation and I’d bet you a hundred dollars that Charlie still tells that story with equal passion every chance he gets. He’ll tell it until he dies. Even then, he’ll probably tell it to Jesus.
Know when I think about my conversation with Chatty Charlie? Whenever I have a bad day. Because when I’m having a bad day, I’m tempted to do things half-baked. I’m tempted to slack off. I’m tempted to say things I will very likely regret later. And I’m certainly tempted to not care about YOUR problems (even if I may have caused one or two of them myself).
But then Chatty Charlie pops in my head and reminds me why I’m here and why I do what I do. He also reminds me just how long people will remember the way you make them feel. He reminds me that a single bad experience doesn’t just stay with somebody for seventeen minutes or seventeen days. And you and I both know it can certainly live longer than seventeen years.
So the lessons here are:
1. Always talk to those old dudes in the election line. You never know what wisdom may come your way.
2. Remember how long a bad impression lasts.
3. Do everything in your power EVERY DAY to not make a bad impression. Fix problems ASAP, be aware of your attitude, and be nice to your customers even when you don’t want to be.
By the way, good impressions can last a lifetime, too. If you haven’t heard my story of Carlos the security guard, check out this past article. I’ve told both the Chatty Charlie and the Carlos story dozens of times. If I’m lucky, I’ll tell them a thousand more times before my work here is done.
Go make an impression today. But make it a good one, ok?
P.S. I LOVE to hear your stories! Leave a comment after this article on our blog & tell the world your favorite customer service impression.
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