Greetings. Earlier in the week I had the opportunity to give a presentation to an audience of Swedish retailers and other businesses interested in customer service. It was a interesting and engaging event held in an opera house and organized by my close friend Stefan Engeseth–himself a highly-regarded Swedish consultant and thought-leader in the areas of marketing and branding. The session focused on what it takes to build a culture of customer service in a country where serving others is a bit uneven. Whenever I visit here I find wonderful examples of service-oriented people and organizations and not-so-wonderful examples too. But I also sense that overall Sweden is not as welcoming a place as it could be to visitors–a significant challenge if the country is to be more serious about, and successful at, tourism and getting visitors to return.
Following the presentation there were many interesting questions and a particular concern about whether or not it was harder for a place that was more "introverted" than "extroverted" to provide the type of service that Americans and other travelers expect. Several participants noted the difficulty that many Swedes have initiating a conversation with strangers–a reality borne out by many years of visiting here. And a simple fact of life for a significant percentage of the world's population.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But it's a very interesting question. Sure it is easier to engage people when you're more outgoing. Seems like a no-brainer. But some of the best service in the world is actually provided by "introverts" (i.e., people who find much of their energy more internally)–service based on a high level of interest and expertise in a particular area and a willingness to share that knowledge in support of a customer's learning and success. Most introverts aren't particularly comfortable with small talk–having to make conversation without talking about something that matters to them. But given the chance to share insight on topics that give them energy they can be a powerful part of world-class service.
And often the best service providers.
The challenge is to make sure everyone's interaction with customers is tied to their greatest interests and talents…and the customer's needs.
We win in business and in life when we play to our real strengths. And when we unlock the essential human instinct to be helpful and service-oriented in whatever setting we feel most comfortable.