Friendly interactions delight customers. A little nudge from management can make it happen.

The Jordan Pond House Restaurant, in Acadia, Maine, creates name tags that mention the town where the employee grew up. Customers frequently ask, "How did you end up in Maine?" Dining services manager Daniel Bridgers says this creates the perfect opportunity for a return question, prompting visitors to talk about their own journeys. The conversations add a personal touch that wouldn't otherwise come easily when a staff of 80 serve 1,800 vacationers during the season's peak. "Whenever one of the staff forgets to put on a name tag, a customer is sure to spot it," notes Bridgers. "It becomes a game for customers to see if there is anyone on staff from somewhere they have been."

Down the road at Dublin Gardens, a small, seasonal garden center, in Trenton, Maine, employees wear big, bright red buttons that say, "Ask me for a free sample of our delicious fudge." A sign on the counter says the same thing, but sales are higher when employees wear the buttons. Lou Dublin, owner of Dublin Gardens, figures that people hesitate to ask for a freebie unless they know the employee will be receptive. "People have rapport with another person, not a counter," he muses. "The only difficulty is getting employees to wear the buttons when the boss isn't around."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing