Monday, July 25, 2011
I’m not big on politics and offer no solutions to our problems. We elect people to solve those problems just like we hire accountants to help us with taxes and lawyers to help answer legal questions. We share our goals with those professionals so they can come up with solutions that best suit us and we essentially do the same with elected representatives.
A big problem with politics stems from the principle of influence known as consistency. This principle tells us people feel internal psychological pressure to remain consistent in word and deed. Normally this is very good because it motivates people to do what they said and adhere to their word. When people don’t follow through we usually look down on them. When I lead a Principles of Persuasion workshop I usually ask participants to describe people who are not consistent and a few words I typically hear include: unreliable, flaky, wishy-washy, and inconsistent. Occasionally someone will go against the tide and say “flexible.”
Rigidly adhering to your word can come back to haunt you if it’s proven your original stance was wrong or circumstance require a change. I’m sure President George Bush Sr. wishes he never uttered, “Read my lips – no new taxes.” When it became clear taxes had to go up he lost all credibility with the American public.
Unfortunately, most American politicians pander to the faithful of their party in order to get elected and in doing so they make public statements in no uncertain terms about what they will or won’t do. They leave no room for change lest they get branded by an opponent as unreliable, flaky, wishy-washy, and inconsistent.
To be sure politicians should have convictions and share those with the public so we can make the best informed decision on who we want to represent us. However, when they dig themselves into positions so deeply that there’s no room for real dialog with the other side and potential compromise for the good of the country then we get what we have now – political gridlock.
Of course each person will tell us they’re just carrying out the wishes of their constituents back home and simply doing what they were sent to Washington to do. As far as I'm concerned that’s a meaningless bunch of drivel! Anyone can use that line to justify nearly any vote they make. It’s analogous to the defense lawyers declaring “the system works” because Casey Anthony got off. The same thing could have been uttered by prosecutors if she had been convicted. If the system works no matter what the verdict then the phrase is meaningless…or maybe the process is!
The following is my opinion only so you can take it or leave it but I still get to write it because it’s my blog. I want elected officials who have one overriding goal, the good of the country. If that means setting aside some ideology so compromise can be reached then so be it. Or perhaps they can start by telling voters what they stand for but that they’re willing to change if necessary for the good of the country.
Next week we’ll get back to the series I’m doing on influence tips for restaurant owners. Until then, thanks for faithfully reading and for allowing me to rant a little this week.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Monday, July 18, 2011
I started this series last week mentioning all the traveling I’ve done during the first half of the year and how it’s given me lots of opportunities to see how restaurants operate. Employing the psychology of persuasion can help customers enjoy the whole dining experience more and that will help the restaurant because of repeat customers. Since my interaction is primarily with the wait staff most of the ideas I share will revolve around them.
Have you ever had your server come up and ask, “Does everything taste fine?” Sure, you have and so have I. I’d have to say that’s what I hear more often than not. When I think about it that phrase it reminds me of the person who, when asked how they’re doing typically says, “Not bad.” So bad is the standard and they’re not bad. Many of you might be thinking you know what they mean when they say that and I do, too, but isn’t it more uplifting to hear something like, “Doing great. Thanks for asking”? Sure it is.
From The Customer Rules : The 14 Indispensible, Irrefutable, and Indisputable Qualities of the Greatest Service Companies in the World by C. Britt Beemer; “Bill Pulte, founder and chairman of Pulte Homes, explains. ‘At Pulte, we work on the premise that we don’t want to satisfy the customer, we want to delight the customer. Here’s what I mean. When a husband and his wife go to a restaurant for dinner and have a nice meal, they are satisfied with it. So they go home and that’s the end of it. They forget about it. On the other hand if they had a fabulous meal and extraordinary service, what do they do? They tell their friends about it. With this in mind, we don’t think that just being satisfied is good enough.’”
Let’s get back to our server. When you go to a restaurant aren’t you expecting the food to be good, great, tasty, delicious, or something else other than just “fine”? I know I am. If I were managing a wait staff my instructions would be that they ask customers, “Does your food taste good?” or “Isn’t the chicken delicious?” or some other phrase that gets customers to think about how good the food is…not that it’s just fine. If customers affirm that the food was good, tasty or something other than fine they’re likely to feel better about the dining experience. That will make them more likely to return and probably tip better.
Why do I think they’ll enjoy the dining experience more and tip better? Because the principle of consistency dictates they will. This principle of influence tells us people feel internal psychological pressure to be consistent in what they say and do. If you want to remember that just think “word and deed” because people like their words and deeds to match up.
If I affirm that the food is good when asked then it would be inconsistent for me to not come back for more at some point. The server can strengthen those odds by asking, “That’s nice to hear. Do you think you’ll be back to see us?” Again, most people would probably say yes to that question and more will return because of it.
I said I think tips will be bigger too as a result. People usually tip based on good service and good food. Poor service or poor food is disastrous for the server who depends on tips for a living. Having them affirm that the food was very good helps move the tipping process along nicely because it’s only consistent to tip well assuming the service was also good.
Next week we'll take a look at more ways to run a restaurant using the psychology of influence.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Lots and lots of travel the first half of the year! By the time it was over I’d visited Baltimore, MD; Austin, TX; Nashville, TN; Chicago, IL; Greensboro, NC; Cincinnati, OH; State College, PA; Cleveland, OH; Milbank, SD; Des Moines, IA; Indianapolis, IN and possibly a few other places I’ve forgotten. With all the travel comes many nights in hotels and dining out.
I’ve blogged before about how hotels are bungling away opportunities to get more people to reuse towels and bed sheets to help the environment so I’ll steer clear of that this week. If you want to learn about what those hotels could do then click here.
As you can imagine, with all the meals on the road I’ve had ample opportunity to observe how restaurants operate. When it comes to engaging customers to help them enjoy the dining experience a little more, and ultimately help the restaurant’s bottom line, there’s plenty of room for improvement so I thought I’d share some psychological tips for running a restaurant -- ideas I’d personally implement if I owned a restaurant. I’ll state up front that most of the ideas I’ll share can be implemented without spending any additional money or very, very little in some cases. Restaurant owners, do I have your attention?
Because there’s a good bit to explore and due to the need to talk about the psychology behind my suggestions, this will be multi part series with short blog posts over four weeks.
Let’s start with the menu and talk very specifically about wine. All too often after grouping the wines (Merlot, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Shiraz, etc.) the listings seem haphazard, at least to the non-wine connoisseur. Unless you’ve a very upscale restaurant with wine lovers for clients I think this is a mistake. Much of the time the cheapest wines are listed first which is an even bigger mistake!
In psychology there’s something known as the contrast phenomenon which tells us what people see or experience first greatly impacts how they perceive the next stimuli they experience. For example, when buying a suit no good salesperson would start the sales process by showing the client accessories. If a salesperson did so the cost of the suit would seem too expensive. Think about it; if you are shown a shirt and tie combo that costs $75-$100 to start then the suit seems even more expensive by comparison. The smart salesperson sells the suit first because then, by comparison, the shirt and tie don’t seem nearly as expensive. Even if the customer doesn’t buy the shirt and tie a least the big ticket item was sold.
How does this relate to the restaurant selling wine? If the average customer starts reading the menu and sees a $20 bottle immediately then by the time they get to the $200 bottle it seems way more expensive by comparison! However, if the more expensive wines are listed first then by comparison the $75 or $50 bottle starts to seem like a bargain. Simply rearranging the order of the wine from most expensive to least the next time new menus are made up should lead to increased sales becomes more people are apt to buy the more expensive wines. They still may not get the $200 bottle but they’re much more likely to consider some of the other more expensive wines.
The same thought process goes for most other menu items. After separating the entrees from the sandwiches, and salads from the starters, the restaurant owner would do well to list food items from most expensive to least.
Next week we’ll look at some things the wait staff can do to increase customer satisfaction and tips.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Monday, July 4, 2011
With this month's Influencers from Around the World we get the honor of hearing from my friend Marco Germani again. Marco has written several guest posts for Influence PEOPLE and always has something very interesting to share with us. I know you'll enjoy Marco's insights on Influence in the Hell of Auschwitz. I encourage you to reach out to Marco on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Nazi death camps during the Second World War were without a doubt among the darkest moments in human history. What happened in those places, reported to us by the few who had the incredible good fortune to survive, is beyond all human logic and any rational understanding. Among the many poignant written evidences of the tragedy of the Holocaust, some can be placed alongside the literary masterpieces of our time. It is the case of the famous book "Se questo è un uomo" (If This Is a Man) by the Italian Primo Levi, which contains a remarkable attempt at a psychological analysis of the dynamics engaged among the prisoners within that scary context. I have read his book many times already and each time it doesn't fail to touch a chord within me and to engage me in deep reflections about life and human behavior. The last time I read the book, my attention was caught by a short profile of one of Levi’s companions in misfortune, simply referred as Eng. Alfred L.
Levi writes: “L. ran in his country a very important chemical plant and his name was (and is) known in industrial circles throughout Europe. I do not know how he had been arrested, but I know he had entered the prison camp as everyone else did: naked, alone and unknown.”
Although apparently that particular situation presented no way out, L. had decided not to surrender before his time had come and, on the contrary, he implemented a precise strategy to save his life. Levi continues: “...no one had ever heard him complain. Indeed, the few words he let fall were such as to suggest resources to a powerful secret and solid organization. This was confirmed in his appearance. L. was impeccable: the hands and face perfectly clean, he had a rare dedication to wash his shirt every two weeks, without waiting for a change every two months (we note here that washing the shirt means to find the soap, find the time, find the space in crowded laundry; adapt to closely monitor, without taking off his eyes a single moment, the wet shirt and wear it, of course, still wet, at the hour of silence, when the lights go out in custody). L. had obtained essentially the entire appearance of a prominent long before becoming one: since only much later I learned that all this apparent prosperity had been earned by L. with incredible tenacity, paying each individual service and purchase with the bread of his own rations, undergoing additional inflicted hardship.”
The plan of L. was clear; through the principle of authority, he had decided to appear in the eyes of his captors as a powerful person. Someone strong, that would be saved, even if it meant standing for hours with a wet shirt in the snow with 10 C degrees below zero during appeals. Even if it meant giving up the daily ration of bread which each time, pushed only a few steps away death from starvation, for the Auschwitz prisoner. In Levi's words: “L. knew that between being and becoming powerful the distance is short, and that everywhere, but particularly among the general leveling of the camp, being respectable is the best guarantee of being respected.”
As it usually happens, the disciplined efforts of L. finally paid off: “When Nazi established the Chemical Kommando, L. realized that his hour had come. He needed no more than his clear shirt and his gaunt but shaved face in the middle of the herd of the sordid and the slovenly to convince the Kapo and Arbeitsdienst that he was a truly saved, a prominent potential. So (who has will be given) he was undoubtedly appointed chief engineer at the Kommandos and assumed direction of the Buna lab as an analyst in the Department of Styrene.” In other words, salvation from death by exhaustion from physical work, from exposure, starvation or selections for the gas chambers.
Despite this methodical and disciplined application of the principle of authority, which saved his life, strangely Levi closes the story with words that reveal a degree of moral condemnation to what L. had implemented. “I do not know more of his story, but I think it is very likely that he escaped death, and lives his life now as a cold, firm and joyless ruler,” making it plain to the reader that the plan of L., had contemplated some kind of vile acts toward others convicted, omitted in the description made to us in the book.