In Levittown, New York – there is a real “It’s a Wonderful Life” happening.
For those who have seen the classic movie, you will remember that a kind and hard-working George Bailey is given something special on Christmas Eve. The townspeople arrive to show how much George means to the community, and help financially to save the “Building and Loan”.
Avi Gandhi has owned Centre Lane Stationery (a convenience store), for 10 years in Levittown, New York. And, despite his loyal customers, a diligent work ethic, and his dedication to the “customer experience”, his business and finances are suffering. He has seen a drop in sales over the past few years, and he has a pile of medical bills due to his wife recently surviving a battle with cancer.
It looks like the doors will be closing soon – but not if his friends and community can help it!
Why is Avi Gandhi so loved by his community?
Avi makes people feel like they matter. He listens! He’s genuine!
- He knows his customer’s names.
- He listens to his customer’s dreams and disappointments, and offers advice.
- He knows and cares when a customer is ill in the hospital.
- He lets people pay him back if they are hard-up.
Some customer comments:
- “Avi brings community to the community.”
- “He cares about Levittown.”
- “You’re not a number walking through the door.”
A Plan was Born! A Cash Mob!
Craig and Celeste Hamilton Dennis (patrons of the store) knew they had to do something. And, that is when a plan was born! A cash mob!
And just like the ending in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the people came in droves to celebrate and support this wonderful man.
The community flooded the store with purchases and love for Avi.
After reading about this fascinating and beautiful story in The Huffington Post, I knew that we could learn a lot from Avi Gandhi.
What are 6 lessons we can learn from Avi?
1. Start with the easy stuff: Make eye contact. Smile. Have a conversation. It doesn’t have to lengthy, it can be while you are bagging their purchases, and it certainly can be meaningful. Avi gets excited for customers when they purchase a lottery ticket, and he talks about what would happen if they win. He is genuine, and people feel the warmth from his words.
2. Be Authentic. Don’t start off thinking, “What is in it for me.” Connect with your customers, and they will respond back with authentic humanity. Unfortunately, when leaders tell employees to strictly follow policies and procedures, and forget to reinforce how important it is to make a personal connection with others, it is the “customer experience” that will suffer. In contrast, Avi knows the importance of connecting with others. And, he genuinely gives himself to every customer, every day.
3. People like to be noticed, remembered, and to matter. Look at the person you are assisting, and remember their face. And, when they walk back into your store you will naturally show recognition. In a world where we sometimes feel invisible, and unappreciated, Avi makes people feel like they matter!
4. How can I make my customer’s life better today? Start with making a mental note of their personal story. If they talked about their dog during their last visit, remember to ask about their dog. If they have a family member who is ill or celebrating a special occasion, ask about their situation on their next visit. Avi makes people feel cared about.
5. Don’t make a customer feel invisible. If you are with a customer, or involved in a task, at least acknowledge another customer who walks in the door. It’s just a little thing, but so important. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood in a store without even a “Hello there! I will be with you in a few minutes”. That’s all it takes.
6. Commitment to people. It isn’t always about commitment to work itself. Avi is dedicated to the people that come into his establishment every day. Even in his own troubled times, he loves and cares about his customers. And in turn, they are just as dedicated to him. Can you say this about your own customers?
Everything has to begin somewhere.
Start with ONE thing from the list TODAY. And, maybe next week add another. Who knows, if there is a time when YOU really need help, your customers might be there to support you.
The final words are LOVE & HUMANITY:
We are approaching that time of year, where the spirit of giving and kindness is around every corner. Isn’t it amazing when there are some people that live those words everyday? Avi Gandhi is one of those people. When Avi didn’t know why the “Cash Mob” was happening, his friend and patron Craig Dennis replied, “You give SO much love out, and this is what it feels like. This is the love!” In response Avi said, “The love that I was given today, it’s not mine. I will share it.”
To make a donation to the Fundly campaign set up for Avi Gandhi, please click HERE!
If you like this blog here are a few others you might want to check out!
– Authentic Humanity in the Workplace.
– Reinvent Work Like Nenshi is Reinventing Government.
– Policy or Passion? What Rules Your Organization?