Profits Over People
Let me know if this is a familiar experience for you. You walk into a store, restaurant, or business. Either as a first-time customer or maybe it’s even one of your favorite joints. You roll up to the counter/register, or sit down at a restaurant table. You greet them with a smile (and sometimes it’s not easy to smile!) and you genuinely ask them how their day is going.
Response: a blunt “good/fine” without so much a glance in your direction.
Or how about this? You visit during regular business hours and… they’re closed. You call their phone over and over… no one picks up. And nobody calls back after you leave a message. Now, a telephone call might not be too big of a deal and it’s but a minor nuisance if they’re closed (if you live down the block). But what if you drove a half hour to check the place out? What if the five-minute phone call was the only free time you had that day?
Oh, and you also double-check their website or social media (if they even have any of those) and see… nothing. No updates, no notices, nada…
How did that make you feel? How does that make you feel thinking about it right now?
You surely don’t feel valued or even acknowledged as a person. You probably feel like they saw you as a dollar sign. Their actions practically screaming “NEXT! Thanks for your money, goodbye.”
Stay with this idea for a moment.
The Coronavirus Aftermath/Damage Control
What I believe: this global catastrophe exposed these so-called businesses and organizations. Maybe exposed is a harsh word, let’s just say it magnified the obvious.
I saw some of these same places now begging their “customers” to help keep their businesses running. But why do they deserve help? They didn’t care about you when you were paying their bills, and all of a sudden they’re on the offensive. A completely 180 on customer service. Saying things like we want to earn your trust, we appreciate your support (things they didn’t say BEFORE all this happened). Strange how “consumer-focused” these places have suddenly become.
If you don’t believe me, try looking at their Yelp accounts. Sure, you’ll definitely see good reviews. Four stars, maybe even five. I’ve certainly done that with new places. Just trying to give a place some shine. Because I had a good time. Because I want people to succeed. And yet, what are their responses?
But when they get a negative review? AN IMMEDIATE REPLY.
I understand that we psychologically focus on the negative. Pain is much more of a motivator than pleasure after all (sometimes I think about that online troll for days). But why not reward your customers for giving you longterm business? Why treat people who gave you negative reviews better than your long-time clients?
So no, I don’t feel bad that these places are struggling. Not that I want to see them go bankrupt (we all have mouths to feed). But when you treat people like an ATM card, you don’t have my sympathy.
People Over Profits
Please humor me as I share my own story (I’ll try to keep it short).
As I’ve matured throughout the years, an idea that has kept me passionate about the work I do is focusing on the human element in my studio. That doesn’t mean I don’t deliver on education. You bet I do my best to make each lesson as informative, educational and value-packed as possible. But I realized you need to put each client, each individual student’s needs above the music, and above the “almighty” dollar. In fact, chasing money in the short term is what caused me to fail many times.
To be fair, when you’ve just dropped out of your doctorate program with no job opportunities, it’s pretty hard to not put a premium on making money (first you must survive). But each failure taught me I wasn’t connecting with the people paying my bills.
Today, nothing is as satisfying as making those connections, letting your clients know you care about them as a person. And whether you’re a new student or not, the priority is always understanding your needs, feelings and thoughts before we even sit down on that piano bench. I want you to feel good (because it makes me feel good too).
So when this coronavirus nightmare began, it just confirmed how important this idea is.
I never second-guessed my decisions when it came to my studio’s health and safety (shutting down in-person lessons ahead of businesses around me). But there’s no way I could tell you it wasn’t nerve-wracking. It’s only later that you realize your ENTIRE income could vanish if everyone decided to ghost you. What’s even scarier is when your decisions are basically the opposite of everyone else around you.
But the question that kept my compass pointing to true north is: would I regret these choices later down the road? NO. And I’m happy to say my students appreciated that as well, because most of them are still with me. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to pay my bills and feed my household month to month.
And to the students who are on hiatus? There’s no judgment. We’re all adjusting and fighting this challenge on our own terms. And when they want to start again, I will welcome them back with open arms… or maybe elbows/fist bumps.
People Above All
Now even with all the doom and gloom being transmitted by the media, I love the inspirational stories that have been coming out. Businesses that have completely pivoted to offer their services to those in dire need. Restaurants telling you to bring your unemployment papers so that they can feed you free of charge. Hardware stores donating their supplies to the medical frontline. Luxury foods now being offered for a fraction of the price, and meals donated to their surrounding communities. Stay-at-home moms sewing their hands off so all their neighbors can have a mask to wear.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As human beings, we’ve been through worst throughout history. And in times of difficulty we show our very best, and no doubt our very best is yet to come.
And the best of us will get through this, because these events pull all the right people together (while repelling the opposite).
It’s true that the economy might be tanking. But as long as we focus on people, we’ll come back stronger. Because the people are the ones who run the economy. Not the companies, not the corporations, and most certainly not the government.
We’ll rebuild from the bottom up. From each neighborhood, community and city. And when we open society again, I believe the power will belong to those who are the kindest. And hopefully these profit-seeking organizations will never forget their failures (probably not). If they don’t, it’s up to the rest of us to keep spreading the message.
The answer is NOT profits. The answer is people. Always has been and always will be.
Wishing you all safety, health, and happiness.