The art of seeing people

Two years ago my buddy Steve (I mentioned him yesterday) and I flew to Nicaragua to visit a cigar factory. While on that trip we met Jorge (who co-owns Stogies World Class Cigars in Houston).

Since we had a friend who lived in Houston (Shawn, who runs WP101) – we asked if he knew Jorge. The answer came in the form of a story.

Shawn had entered the cigar lounge in Houston with a friend. His first visit. While there he had met Jorge and they’d briefly chatted about coffee.

Three months later, Shawn had again visited the lounge and Jorge had walked up and welcomed him, “Shawn, did you bring me any of that coffee we talked about?”

To say Shawn was shocked at Jorge’s memory would be an understatement.

In the last two years I’ve had the opportunity to watch Jorge run his stores and name recognition isn’t the real trick that’s amazing.

The real trick is that Jorge has mastered the art of seeing people.

How many times have you been in a store and not been noticed? How many times have you been in a hotel where someone says hi to you but they’re barely looking at you?

The service industry isn’t just run on customer service. It succeeds on customer delight. And the easiest way to repeat business is having that feeling that you’re special or matter.

Why do we join airline loyalty programs? We know we’re not important to the airline but it gives us the briefest experience of importance.

What Jorge does in his cigar lounges is to actually see, to recognize and connect, every customer. Immediately you feel welcomed, and more importantly, known.

And that’s when you realize you’ve been “seen.”

I have other friends who may not be as good with names. But when they see you they remember every conversation you’ve had – even if the last time you spoke was a year ago.

However you do it, there’s an art to seeing people. And maybe the most important part is developing the habit of actually paying attention to people when you meet and connect with them.

Today I’m with Jorge and Shawn in the Dominican Republic. Last year we were together in Nicaragua. Both of these guys and Steve all have multiple things in common – they like cigars, they’re friends, and they see people.