Is it me or is it that this time of year brings out the misery in people?
As I tried to get on the tube on Monday, my joyful mood quickly turned for the worst after experiencing the cramped and squalid conditions of the London Underground with busy commuters pushing rudely past each other (I even caught an elbow in the rib cage from an elderly gentleman rushing for a train!).
That night I visited the dentist. Not the perfect end to a day but, as it turned out, it was the most enjoyable part of my day. Firstly, I was greeted by the receptionist who welcomed me in with a smile. Now dentists aren’t my favorite place in the world but as I sat in the waiting room surrounded by gleaming white smiles peering back from the glossy brochures, I realized how nice it was to be on the receiving end of a smile (especially since I had seen such a lack of them down in London). It then took me back to when I lived in the US during my student years and I remembered how the staple of American humor about the UK is the population’s bad teeth (just look at Austin Powers the movie).
I then thought back to the day I had just had and it got me thinking. I came to the conclusion that it isn’t the fact that the English have not learnt the art of smiling or are any ruder than our US cousins (have you ever visited New York?). It is just the fact that we are ashamed to smile because of our badly kept crowns and rotten teeth (I joke only slightly!).
A smile not only changes your mood but it also makes you look more attractive and it is contagious. We humans are wired to respond like for like; just think about it, if you smile at somebody in the street, you are more than likely to receive a smile in return. Although I acknowledge that we can’t all be happy all of the time, we do need to make more of an effort, especially because smiling is a social thing. I recently read about a fascinating experiment carried out in a bowling alley that showed that when people get a strike they do not smile as they watch the ball take down the pins at the end of the alley. It is only when they turn to face their competitors that their faces break into a smile. We smile to communicate a message.
In business, everything we do starts with the customer. Without customers, we would have no work, and with no sales, we would be bankrupt. What would a potential customer think if we solemnly entered a meeting and didn’t smile for the duration? I am pretty certain we wouldn’t win the job.
Earlier this year, the Japanese government took things to the extreme by testing railway workers’ curvaceousness of smiles at 15 railway stations in Tokyo. Workers had their smiles computer tested and those that didn’t meet the perfect smile criteria were directed on how to improve their smile.
Service with a smile is often used within the consumer industry but is that because the market is directly interacting, face to face with the customer and not down a protracted value chain as in business to business markets? Now I am not saying that we need to go as far as the Japanese government but what I am stressing is the importance of customer satisfaction tracking in b2b markets.
As we close the door on 2009 and open a fresh one to 2010, ask yourself one question – What are your customers feeling right now? Are they smiling? What if they aren’t? What can you or your company do to put the smile back on their faces?
For our final Thursday Night Insight of 2009 I want to leave our readers with something. We have all heard the adage ‘It takes a greater number of facial muscles to produce a frown than it does to generate a smile’. Now I am not sure if this is true but here are 10 things that we should all bear in mind as we move into 2010 (especially if you are travelling on the London Underground!):
- Smiling Makes Us Attractive
We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away — but a smile draws them in.
- Smiling Changes Our Mood
Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There’s a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.
- Smiling Is Contagious
When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.
- Smiling Relieves Stress
Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.
- Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves, possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.
- Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?
- Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin
Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.
- Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger
The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day — you’ll look younger and feel better.
- Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.
- Smiling Helps You Stay Positive
Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.