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What Our Attitudes Communicate To Customers
by Bill Lampton

Because my wife and I wanted to celebrate a special professional achievement, we asked the hotel concierge, "What restaurant do you recommend that's classy, but not overpriced?" She named one located a short cab ride away.

"You'll like the food and the scenery. It's one of the newest places around here. I know the manager, and you'll get very personal service."

Heeding her advice, we went there for dinner. The building was attractive, with an unobstructed view of the ocean. Our seafood was delicious, and prices were moderate. However, we decided--very quickly--that we won't return there when we're in that city again.

Why? Because the attitudes we encountered ruined our evening.

While taking our order, the waiter commented: "I've worked here for a few months. At first, business was fine. Then, after the newness wore off, reservations declined drastically. Now I'm lucky to get a few dollars a night in tips." Shrugging his shoulders and displaying a dejected look, he told us, "Guess I should look elsewhere for a job."

When our food arrived, so did the manager. Her greeting was cordial, and we asked how the restaurant got started. "Well," she answered, "we have a similar restaurant in Miami that's doing quite well, so we thought the same concept would work here."

"So you came here from Florida?" we inquired.

"That's right," she said. "But I don't know how long I'll be here. This restaurant may not make it."

We looked around. We saw only two other tables occupied, and just three people seated at the bar. The only noticeable noise came from a band and a vocalist, whose voice bounced around the near-empty room.

The manager walked away. "This small turnout doesn't surprise me," my wife noted. "Who wants to return here to listen to their bad news?"

I agreed. "Yeah, they've sort of killed our celebration spirit. They misunderstand their purpose. Dining out means forgetting your problems--and not taking on anyone else's."

I'm confident that restaurant won't survive. Customers like to invest their time and money with winners, not with whiners.

Winning words from the waiter could have included these observations: "We're new, but people in this community have noticed us. We've heard nice things about our service and the variety on the menu."

The manager might have expressed hope, too: "Have you ever seen such a splendid view? Look at those condominiums in the distance. We'll get steady customers from there. And we're proud of our chef, who gets many compliments. When your travels bring you this way again, you may need to call ahead for reservations."

Buoyed by such a positive outlook, we could have overcome the dismal attendance, recognizing that even our favorite restaurants back home suffer occasional slumps.

On the contrary, as we walked out and heard the manager say, "Would you like to stay for a drink?" we declined, moving rapidly toward the taxi stand. "Maybe next time," I offered, knowing there would be no next time.

The lesson? Clear and simple--when your business goes sour (and most businesses do that periodically), keep your doubts to yourself. Remember, moods are as contagious as diseases. . .and just as debilitating when they're depressing moods.

Look for the good side. Without being deceitful at all, you can find encouraging signs, and share them with clients and would-be clients. Your obvious confidence will inspire your regular buyers and will attract new ones.

Twenty-five years ago I heard a slogan which fits beautifully here: "Nobody wants to ride a hearse, but everybody wants to jump on a bandwagon."

Copyright Bill Lampton. All Rights Reserved.

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations achieve CPR—Cooperation, Productivity, Renewal of Mission! He wroteThe Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life!

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