So…You are friendly but not friends with each other. They are your customers, they are your employees (maybe they are your handyman.) They could be more, but they don’t have to be.
In other words, it’s actually very easy to limit your conversation to just small talk. You can be engaging, yet casual. Ask about the weather. Talk about the weekend. “What are the plans for today?” “Enjoy watching the game this weekend?” Does it really matter their opinion? Yes. Their opinion matters, but it matters MORE what they think about your products and services. (Not whether or not Tebow should be part of the fall team line up…unless you want it to matter.) That opinion doesn’t have to affect you.
Becoming friends means that you ask really probing questions about their life and what is happening and if it is good – it makes you happy – if it is bad – it makes you sad, or angry, or motivated to help…
It isn’t easy to become friends with employees or with customers; however, you should always be friendly. Make them feel welcome; and a part of the community in your location, your store, or your restaurant. Learn their name, their kids preferences for their breakfast out on Sunday; side of BBQ sauce, no ketchup. It pays dividends in loyalty and repeat business. They will NOT hold it against you if you don’t know EVERYTHING about them.
Even though Social Media has changed the rules, it is OK to be friendly but not friends with everyone… Don’t feel the pressure to cross that line and share everything with them. Of course, sometimes, the customer will feel a certain arms length distance that is safer than telling a friend the deep dark secrets of their life. You can be safe. You can listen. You can still know whether they prefer hot coffee or iced tea with out having to ask; it’s more of a confirming non-question (“the usual…”) Sometimes, these things matter more than being “friends” and that is exactly what they need today.
~ Dawn aka Hat Girl