The digital age is in full swing, and while social media has dissolved boundaries and connected people all over the world, it has also diminished our interpersonal skills. Vincent Nichols said,
“We're losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person's mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanizes what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.”
The exterior cleaning industry has traditionally been a “word-of-mouth” industry. While Facebook and Google have made it easier to be found, quality referrals often yield the best results when it comes to sales. Even if a job was generated through an online source, maintaining credibility by having a top notch service call is imperative to generating recurring or referral business. Training your techs in proper kinesics (body language) will help with customer retention and add professionalism to customer interaction.
Here’s an example. You are manager of a fast food chain. It’s seven in the morning and you’re walking up to your business ready to work for the day. John Doe, a local window washer you’ve hired to clean your windows on a regular basis is near the entrance. His clothes are wrinkled and ratty, and he smells of booze and cigarettes. He moves at a pace comparable to walking through water – slowly, lazily. He trudges from window to window, not taking the time to acknowledge your presence. Question: how long will you continue to use his services?
Probably not for much longer. Especially if next door at a rival fast food restaurant, you see a uniformed technician. His clothing is professional; a uniform shirt with a logo is visible. He moves with purpose; he washes windows with a flourish, swinging the squeegee back and forth on the glass and spending only a few moments on each pane. The manager of the rival restaurant walks toward the door and the technician nods his head and greets him. He wastes no time and he does not stop washing windows, but he acknowledges the person who has hired him.
What these scenarios are demonstrating is the idea of the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. The book, a sociology work by Erving Goffman, explores the concept that every interpersonal interaction is a performance. Being conscious of how we act/talk/move can dictate success or failure. Goffman theorized that the world is a stage and we the players; we fit our performance to match the expectations of those around us. Understanding that nonverbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words, it is important for those of us in the customer service field to know what we are saying even when we are not speaking.
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Goffman stated that any repeated action is a performance. In the scenarios above, who was giving the better performance? Obviously, the technician at the rival restaurant displayed the ideal technician.. His attitude and work ethic were apparent through his actions.
How does this apply to the industry? Let’s take a look at a few do’s and don’ts.
The Do's and Don'ts
As with spoken words, there is appropriate body language and awkward or off-putting body language. Like tone of voice when speaking, small gestures or stances can relay an entirely different meaning to the person you're communicating with.
DO: Focus on the customer when speaking to them. Stay focused on their face, and smile; let them know that you care about what they are saying to you.
DO: Slouch. Slouching looks bad. It looks lazy. Slouching subconsciously communicates a lack of caring or a nonchalant attitude toward the customer. It is also bad posture for your back.
DO: Stand up straight. Keeping your back straight and your shoulders back make you appear more attentive and on call. It lets the customer know that you are at attention and listening to their every word.
DO: Keep your hands in your pockets. Hands in pockets looks bad. It looks lazy and uncaring, and overly casual. At the least, do not have your hands deep in your pockets. Hooking your thumb can be acceptable.
DO: Keep your hands comfortably at your side. Stay relaxed. Use your hands to gesture if you are comfortable with that. Otherwise, just keep your hands comfortably at your sides.
DO: Cross your arms. Crossing your arms is a stand-offish stance. It is a closed stance, and it easily makes customers feel like you are confrontational or threatening. They will be less inclined to talk to you.
The key to giving off a favorable impression is to be Formally Comfortable. Let me explain: BEING too comfortable looks bad. Slouching, hands in pockets or arms crossed, or leaning against a surface can be more comfortable, but it looks just plain lazy. Looking past the customer, or at the ground, or at your hands makes you look uncomfortable and awkward.Standing straight and with poise takes control and an understanding of kinesics, or at least an awareness of it. Be aware of how you appear to someone who is looking at you. You must stand tall, focus on the customer, and keep your hands naturally placed all without appearing to be tense.
Presentation of Self
Erving Goffman stipulated that life is a never-ending series of performances; that the world is the stage and those we interact with are our audience. When interacting with a customer, the salesman is the player. The porch is his stage. The customer is his audience. His body language and his words are his performance. Understanding kinesics could be the difference between a forgettable presentation and a great one.