In scrolling through my feeds this morning, I saw not one but two articles regarding manners and making human connections. This struck me as significant. In a world chocked full of horrific shootings, nasty politics and vapid celebrity-ism, is it actually any wonder that “please,” “thank you” and connectedness are noteworthy? One fast food company is slaying the competition with respect to customer service. According to Business Insider, Chick-fil-A employees rate the highest of all of the fast food businesses to offer the coveted “please” and “thank you” and second in the industry to offer a “pleasant demeanor.” This is important because customer service drives sales. In 2015 the company generated more revenue than any other chain in the industry. This profitability is thought to be a direct result of the employee training they provide. They train people to connect.
We like to be acknowledged and appreciated, even if it’s by the kid handing us a sack of food through a window while our wheels are rolling. Eye contact, a kind word and a smile, even from a stranger, serve to remind us that we’re all here and all connected. Sure, we can have our toilet paper drone-dropped to us and pick up our pre-ordered groceries without ever having to leave our car, but when someone takes a moment to purposely connect, to see us, we remember.
Austin Simms, a coffee shop owner in Roanoke, VA, decided that he was going to “…solve all of the injustices of the world…” by charging people a premium on their coffee if they didn’t connect with the people behind the counter. In an article posted by Bored Panda, the sandwich board sign outside of Cups, Mr. Simms’ shop, indicated that people looking to purchase coffee would pay decidedly less for their coffee the greater their interaction with the barista. His sign and the idea have gone viral, garnering publicity across the globe and many, many social media fans.
Are we so starved for connection with something other than a screen that manners and eye contact from a stranger have taken on new relevance? If a sandwich board sign promising cheaper coffee in exchange for a “hello,” gives us the warm squishes, what are we missing?
I think the answer lies somewhere in each other.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company produces training events utilizing theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans.