Last week I had the privilege of traveling to San Francisco and Los Angeles to meet with some of our firm’s top customers.
The trip was really great.
Positive, productive and even fun.
Thanks to my boss’s characteristic generosity, I was able to fly first class for the very first time. Let me tell you, it will be hard to go back to flying coach. The roomy seats, doting service, and proliferation of snacks and beverages would make any ordinary working girl feel like a VIP. This is one more thing checked off of my bucket list!
Plus, it was an excuse to laugh about an endless number of jokes from this incredible comedy sketch!
Once you’ve had a chance to dry your eyes from laughing so hard you cry while you watched that, feel free to keep reading :)
It was a whirlwind trip, so I didn’t spend time soaking up the sun or digging my toes into the sand, but I got a “behind the screens” look at who our customers really are. The people behind the emails, if you will.
As much as technology has transformed the workforce and allowed me the luxury of working from home 70% of the time, it certainly takes away the personal aspect. Meetings and phone calls have been replaced with emails and text messages.
Sure it’s faster and more convenient, especially in my case (hello screaming toddler!) but it’s impersonal too.
How often have I read into the tone of an email and gotten offended or upset? More times than I’d like to admit. Would the same thing happen if I were face to face with the person? Probably not!
When you can look into the eyes of the person you’re working with, debating with or even correcting, it makes a world of difference. The hundreds of signals given off by body language and facial expressions are totally lost in the written word.
These aren’t just managers, executives and analysts, they are people! With feelings and families and strengths and sore spots.
Last week was full of meetings with these people. I got up early everyday to get ready for these meetings. I dressed up while thinking through the items we wanted to discuss at our meetings. I expected to come away with notes about how to improve our process and provide better service.
What I really came away with was an appreciation for who these people really are. Outside of the roles they play and the positions they hold.
One guy works exclusively from home. His boss and coworkers are spread across the US. He wears shorts and a t-shirt to “work” everyday and does most of his job via email. He mentioned that working from home can be nice, but that it often leaves him feeling lonely. Our meeting with him over a couple of beers during happy hour was probably the highlight of his week. We swapped stories about uncovering frauds in the past, we marveled over what a small world we live in since he grew up in my neighborhood and we got to know him as a person, not just a customer.
Another lady comes across as “all business” over the phone and by email. I had her pegged as being cold and reserved, but she looked us in the eye when we met with her and she told us how honored she was that we traveled across the country to meet with her. She thanked us for the gift we sent ahead of time and expressed sincere appreciation for the work we do. I was blown away by how different she was than I had imagined her to be.
One of our other contacts is a woman I’ve worked with on scheduling during the past couple of years. Her job is similar to mine and she’s been a great resource for understanding the internal processes of the bank she works for. After a sales trip that occurred a year or so ago (that I didn’t go on) she commented that I should come out to CA someday to meet with their group. At the time, I didn’t think it would ever happen but with all the staff changes we’ve undergone recently, it now makes sense for me to go on these trips. I had been looking forward to meeting her, but had no idea what an impact she would have on me.
This woman is one of those that makes you think, “how does she do it all?” She works full time, is mother to adorable 3 year old twins, crochets up a storm, speaks 4 languages, cooks up loads of Brazilian food, plans awesome activities to engage with her children on the weekends, stays in touch with friend and family via Facebook and blogging and still manages to be energetic, outgoing and a pure delight to be around!
I’m tired from being on the go all week and changing time zones so rapidly, but I’m filled up from all of the awesome conversations and connection that occurred last week. At the end of the day it boils down to relationship. At work, at home, at church, at school, anywhere we find ourselves it’s SO important to remember that relationships are key. Tasks will get accomplished, but the real treasures in life are found when we connect with people.