When a smile can be a secret weapon

Abdul Wali has sold fruit in front of 470 Park Avenue South for the past four years. Like the proverbial mailman, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night keeps Abdul from peddling his oranges, bananas, tangerines, apples and other assorted fruits.7865332_1

I’d always been impressed by his even demeanor and consistent service and decided to decided to ask Abdul the secret of his success. He was happy to answer my questions and told me it was a combination of things:

– knowing what his competitive fruit stand guys were peddling and charging

– knowing when to replace certain fruits with others as the seasons changed (his best selling year-round item is the good old apple)

– always smiling, no matter how rude or indifferent his customers may be

Abdul’s customer-centric service got me thinking about his peers in Corporate America and a couple of my less-than-positive interactions with them. One occurred in the gorgeous reception area of a major multinational organization. I’d arrived early for a meeting and asked for my client. The gum-chewing receptionist gave me the once over, put down her cheap romance novel and said, "I don’t know him. Where he work at?" I told her. She sighed, picked up the phone and called another receptionist, asking "You know some guy named Smith?" Needless to say, I was amazed that such an unprofessional woman was allowed to be an initial point of contact for a top company.

My other service saga comes from the early days of Peppercom and involves a Drew University intern who doubled as our fill-in receptionist. I’d given her an important assignment and called her into my office to ask about its status. She responded to my question by saying, "Oh yeah, that project. Sorry dude, guess I just flaked on it." Needless to say, she was soon flaking out somewhere else.

A company’s image and reputation is simultaneously priceless and delicate. And every company is only as strong as its weakest link (witness the gum-chewing, cheap romance novel reading receptionist). In these days of indifferent receptionists and flaked out interns, it’s comforting to know that the Abdul Wali’s of the world still exist. And still get it. Service with a smile works every time.

6 thoughts on “When a smile can be a secret weapon

  1. I tried to get Abdul interested in Peppercom’s pain based selling program, but could never close the deal. Glad to see he’s finally getting some exposure.

  2. Well of course it was a photo opp! What exactly is wrong with that? Or do you think people should only be photographed with people who look like them?

  3. Just think that while Repman is making a valid point that he’s in the same business as the fruit vendor, the picture just struck me — and just me, and this is my opinion and not an indictment — as a photo opp.

  4. David: Totally confused by your comment…”heart in the right place…” Why are you cringing?

  5. I know your heart is in the right place Repman, and I see your point about good service in any business, but I’m cringing while reading this post. Sorry…