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Transaction vs. Interaction: Engaging Your Self-Storage Customers and Employees

By Marty Stanley

When you talk to people, are you focused on the transaction or your interaction? A transactional encounter is one in which you're just going through the motions to get the task or discourse done. Maybe you’re texting, talking on the phone, or just dazed and confused, but the bottom line is you're not engaged with the person in front of you or the process.

Interaction occurs when two people are engaged in a dialogue or actively participating in the process. For example, think about the last time you went out to eat. When you ordered, was the server friendly, knowledgeable and quick? Did he show authentic interest, assistance and interaction in helping you with your order and when paying the check?

That kind of interaction is so noticeably different from a typical transaction that it’s now considered a fluke. As a consumer, it’s refreshing to be engaged in this kind interaction and on the receiving end of good service! Businesses with employees focused on the interaction seem to have owners who clearly have a different strategy for hiring and training than their competitors who are focused on the transaction.

Effective Interaction Can Affect Outcomes

The above is just one example of how effective interaction can affect the outcome. In this case, the restaurant has a loyal customer who’s now telling others about how great it is. Ask yourself, what are you talking about, and are your conversations focused on the transaction or interaction? When you talk to people, are you clear about the purpose of the conversation? Are your thoughts, words and actions aligned with that purpose and the outcomes you hope to achieve?

If you’re focused on the transaction, there can be a tendency to treat the conversation in a matter-of-fact, Sergeant Friday approach: "Just the facts Ma'am." The conversation is like a flowchart—cover all the bases and move on to the next topic, person or activity. The implied message behind the message can be interpreted as "I don't have time for you or what’s important to you."

During this challenging economic time, when organizations are doing more with less, common after-effects include employee fatigue, increased absenteeism, low morale, and diminished productivity or quality of work. All of these impact the end user or consumer of your products or services. There’s a lot of talk about "employee engagement." But are you really walking the walk, or is it really just another form of transactional communication with a fancy label?

If you want to use real employee engagement, take a look at the quality of conversations you're having. Are they transactional or are you really interacting with people?

Turning the Tide

A recent study indicated 63 percent of the workforce under the age 45 plans to leave their current employer when the economy improves. While it may be politically correct to say the impetus for leaving is a better opportunity for advancement or more money, the bottom line is most people start looking and choose to leave an organization based on perceived negative interactions with management.

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