- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Wherever Marc Himmelberger goes, he wears a nametag adorned with a gold-colored pin in the shape of a pickle. The tag (which urges acquaintances to “Ask me!”) starts conversations, he said. Conversations start relationships, which, to Himmelberger, are the key to success both in business and in life.
“That’s what it does. It makes me more approachable,” Himmelberger said.
The choice of a pickle wasn’t an accident. It attests to how moved Himmelberger was by “Give ’em the Pickle,” a customer-service training video by restaurateur Bob Farrell, which urges workers to do whatever it takes to please a customer.
The title stems from one of Farrell’s anecdotes in the film, about a loyal customer who wrote a letter vowing never to return after a waitress charged him for an extra pickle with his meal. Farrell won the disaffected man back.
This philosophy of customer service, added to a broader business-oriented positivity espoused by management gurus, guides Himmelberger’s life beyond the realms of commerce. The video lent its name to a seminar Himmelberger, a job counselor at the Waldorf unemployment office, gave to entrepreneurs and employees Friday.
His “Give ’em the Pickle” seminar, presented at the Maryland One-stop Career Center where he works, was sponsored by the Business Alliance of Charles County. Alliance President Ken Gould met Himmelberger when he himself was unemployed following his dismissal from the Charles County Chamber of Commerce last year. And, during a rough time in his life, he was inspired, Gould said. A reluctant attendee of Himmelberger’s compulsory “intervention workshop,” Gould returned voluntarily for more programs.
Himmelberger’s expansive views about customer service and relationships are valuable lessons for anyone in business, Gould said.
“Hopefully people realize that customer service doesn’t only exist in the service industries. Most times, people think of restaurants or that kind of thing. … That is one thing I had hoped to get across. If you’ve got customers or clients, you’d better be doing a good job with customer service,” regardless of the industry, Gould said.
Beacon Printing in Waldorf shut down for a few hours so that all 17 employees present could absorb the message. Co-owner Wayne Magoon, who is also executive director of the business alliance, said his workers needed to learn to provide good service, even the shop workers who never speak to a customer, because co-workers can be customers, too, Magoon said.
“What you have to realize, in every business you not only have external customers, the ones you serve every day who pay the bills, but you have internal customers. When I need something from someone inside the shop, I become an internal customer to them. … Let’s say, for instance, a salesperson says to one of the pressmen, ‘You know, the customer really asked for this tomorrow. Can you do it?’ That’s an internal question. Usually it’s up to the salesperson to answer. The salesperson becomes the customer over the pressman, and the pressman gets to make it happen or not,” Magoon said.
At the seminar, Leon Hayes of Waldorf recalled an outstanding customer service episode from the Waldorf Chick-fil-a. He and his wife had planned an event and placed a catering order though the restaurant’s website.
The order disappeared into the ether.
“They didn’t know who we were. This was at 5 p.m.” the night of the party, Hayes recalled. But in less than two hours, a Chick-fil-a worker was driving up to the house with the full order, hastily prepared.
“We all make mistakes. It’s how you fix it. They did an outstanding job of fixing it,” Hayes said.
Sherri Suter of Brandywine, a direct seller of purses, attended primarily to meet people, since it’s through meeting people that she sells bags. But she enjoyed the video and plans to use its principles in training people under her.
“I liked the geese. I’m going to use that to my team. Geese fly better in formation,” meaning that good service involves making everyone look good, not just making oneself look good, Suter said.
Good relationships like those are everything to Himmelberger, not just when working but when looking for work. Would you look for a spouse on the Internet? If not, why would you look for a job there, he asked.
“Most of us typically have a relationship with someone before you become engaged. Certainly before you become married,” and finding a new position is similar, he said. In fact, he invited one of the people he counsels, who is interested in printing, to the seminar so he could meet Magoon.
“So I made a relationship between him and Wayne. Now you see. It’s really about networking. And that’s what I’m about,” he said.
He so values relationships that he doesn’t have a resume and wouldn’t fill out a job application, he said, preferring to find a way to meet the employer instead.
Asked if that approach works, he said simply, “I’m here.”
Part of fostering strong relationships with others is being relentlessly optimistic, with Himmelberger answering “Blessed and highly favored!” if anyone asks how he is. He used to favor “Super great!” with two thumbs up, but found his current answer in a gospel song and liked it better.
Anyone, regardless of personality, can be that upbeat, and find success that way, he said.
“It’s a learned behavior,” Himmelberger said.