From the time I was a small child my father insisted I have a firm grip when shaking someone’s hand. At five years old, and very small for my age, my hand was a mere acorn compared to the hands of the adults my dad expected me to greet with a “firm” handshake. He explained that a firm handshake was an important expression of acknowledgement and respect. He wouldn’t tolerate a limp lifeless squeeze-less handshake; what he referred to as a “namby-pamby” handshake. To make his point he would say, “put it there” extending his hand to me. If I didn’t immediately give a firm grip he would squeeze and roll my fingers around in his palm with a devilish, but loving, grin on his face until I begged for mercy . I quickly learned to initiate a firm grip when shaking someone’s hand. As I grew into a young man I came to appreciate a firm handshake.
I was at America’s Tire Company yesterday for a tire rotation. For the past ten years every tire I’ve purchased has come from America’s Tire Company in Livermore. As I was leaving the store Jose, the service advisor, handed me my keys, looked me in the eye, and extended his hand. As we shook hands Jose said, “Thank you for your business Mr. Morales”. Jose’s firm handshake underscored all the reasons why I continue to do business exclusively with America’s Tire Company in Livermore. With that handshake I felt valued and recognized. It harkened the lesson of acknowledgment and respect my dad had taught me so many years ago as a wee child of five.
As I walked to my car I thought “What a difference that handshake made. I like Jose. I trust Jose”. What was a good experience turned into a great experience because of this simple yet powerful gesture of acknowledgement and respect. So often, as the headline of this blog says, it’s the little things that make a big difference in the customer experience. Merchants and business owners could learn a lot from Jose. The physical, and even the figurative, handshake is a powerful tool every service provider should have on the top of their took kit. Better, like a carpenter it should hang off the side of their tool belt ready to be deployed at a moments notice.
Here is some advice to merchants, business owners, and on-line retailers: Handing a bag of goods to the customer leaving your store? Be like Jose and extend your hand. Sending an email to a customer about a recent service interaction? Close it with a “handshake”. Leaving a voicemail or ending a conversation with a customer about a back ordered item? End it with a “handshake”. Oh, and make it a firm one or my dad will track you down you and squeeze and roll your fingers around in his palm while you beg for mercy.