It is nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Two weeks ago I spent a night in the hospital getting a number of tests. I believe in thorough physicals and thankfully I’m in great shape.

However, the hospital lost the $700 pair of shoes I was wearing. (Yeah, I know that’s an exorbitant cost. But I buy a very high-quality running shoe and custom-made orthotics so I can comfortably, energetically stand on my feet all day long when I’m speaking to an audience.)

I reported it to the hospital’s lost-and-found department and even spoke face-to-face with Security Officer Craig who was in charge of that department. He wrote down all my information and remembered me when I came back to check on my shoes a second time. He was so nice, saying he looked for my shoes every day, but I was quite certain those shoes were gone forever, especially after being lost for two weeks.

Then last Thursday I got a voice mail from Craig. He said he found my shoes and asked me to come in and check it out. Sure enough they were there. I was delighted and thanked him and he was glad he could help.

About an hour later it hit me that I needed to do more than give Security Officer Craig a quick thank-you. I needed to be nicer than that. So I took a moment to text him a more detailed, thought-out note of appreciation.

Within seconds, he texted me back. He said, “Thanks so much for your note. It made my day. I made it my mission to find your shoes.”

In a sense, he made it his mission to be super nice and provide above-and-beyond customer service. I believe that all of our lives, relationships, jobs, and businesses would be in much better shape if we adopted this super-nice mission.

Try this for starters.

 ►1. Remind yourself that being nice is good for you and your business.

Even though some customer service providers don’t get it, it should be obvious that customers will spend a lot of money with a company that’s nice.

That’s why author Winn Claybaugh called his book Be Nice (Or Else!). He says, “Make no mistake — your customers are attracted to you more by your enthusiasm than by your marble floors; more by your cheerful disposition and love for what you do than by your sleek business cards; more by your company standards for respecting human beings than by your multimillion-dollar advertising campaign. When you make being nice a daily priority, your company or business will reap the reap the rewards.

► 2. Remember the smallest people make the biggest difference … when they’re nice.

Ben Novello, the former president of Outback Steakhouse, says it very well. In all their years in business, he says they have never received one single letter saying, “I just love Outback Steakhouse because of your executives.” By contrast they’ve received thousands of comments, letters, and e-mails from customers saying they loved the nice treatment they got from their hosts, bartenders, servers, and cooks.

In fact, Disney might have been the first company to pick up on the power of niceness. And if you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about.

If you were a guest at one of the Disney parks and got lost, who would you ask for directions? Would you find your way to the corporate offices, find a highly paid Disney executive, and ask him or her for directions? No! You’d ask the street sweeper who was picking up spilled popcorn outside Space Mountain.

Imagine if that street sweeper responded coldly, “I don’t know. Why are you asking me? That’s not my job. They don’t pay me enough to know where everything is around here.” Disney would soon become unprofitable.

I can assure you that is NOT how a street sweeper would respond to you at a Disney park. You would NOT receive a sarcastic or indifferent response from any of their employees. And that is precisely why their customers come back and tell others about their experience, despite the high costs of going through a Disney park.

Disney knows that the smallest people make the biggest difference and that’s why every Disney employee goes through extensive and ongoing training in how to be nice to their customers.

How much training does your company provide on being nice? Not enough, I would guess.

The entire second day of my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program focuses on building stronger, healthier, nicer relationships on and off the job. If you want me to save you a seat in our final offering in the Spring of 2022, send me an email.

► 3. Keep on asking, “How does this affect the customer?”

If you’re going to be a customer service champion … no matter what your title is … you need to make a major paradigm shift. You need to shift your thinking from “What’s in it for me?” to “How will this affect the customer?”

You are not a neutral force in the world of customer service. Every comment you make, every behavior you exhibit, and every system you implement affects the customer in some way. Are you stopping to think about that BEFORE you speak, act, or respond? Are you asking yourself, “Will this provide a better or poorer experience for my customers?”

Hopefully, everything you do makes it a better experience for the customer. (By the way, your customers include your coworkers, friends, and family members.)

► 4. Own it.

In other words, being nice is not somebody else’s job. It’s ALWAYS your job. If you want a BE NICE culture in your business, your family, your church, your country or anywhere else, it starts with the belief that if you see it, you own it.

For example, if you see a gum wrapper on the floor in the reception area, the fact that you saw it means you own it. You pick up the gum wrapper and throw it away. It makes no difference that it’s not your gum wrapper or that it’s not a part of your job description.

Being nice means you own whatever you see. If you notice that your coworkers are not being nice to each other, you own it. It doesn’t matter what your job title is. It doesn’t matter whether or not if you caused their rudeness. What matters is that you saw a problem and you now own your part in doing something to help alleviate the problem.

Your customers have a choice about where to spend their money. Of course, they’re going to make a decision with their heads, but they’re also going to spend money with their gut. They’re going to ask themselves, “How do I feel about spending time in your place of business? How nice are you?”

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