Public speaking isn't just about keynote speeches and presentations to the board of directors. More often what gets the needed results is small talk. The first lines of business - the checkout clerks - at Stop & Shop supermarket, North Haven, Connecticut know how to do that just right.
Actually, it's built into all their customer communications systems. The receipt starts with "Hi! I'm Stephanie - Cashier 00186." Perky like Katie Couric from her "Today" days, Stephanie lets the elderly couple ahead me know she's authentically interested in them. For example, she remembers the wife works on Sundays. She helps them load their shopping cart. They beam. Probably they rarely receive anyone's full attention.
My turn up, Stephanie signals she is packing my soap separately from the vegetables. I thank her. Then we talk about gas points. "I bet you get a lot of commendations from customers," I say to her. "I love helping," is her answer.
This focused small talk will help supermarkets co-exist with the big boxes like Wal-Mart's food supercenter. Sure, there is the beautiful asthetic of the fresh food arranged with a sense of design. But given that new frugality has outlasted the worst of economic times, that isn't enough. It's the human-to-human touch that brings me into a real supermarket in these better times.
Mike Kupec, the receipt informs us, is the store manager. Providing that name is yet another human touch.