I love to go into a neighborhood coffee shop, stand back and observe. Watching the interactions between regular customers and the staff behind the counter tells a wonderful story. There are big smiles in every direction and the associates know each customer’s preferences: how the coffee should be prepared, really strong or not, little milk, half and half, natural or artificial sweeteners. The best and most important thing is that everyone knows each other’s names. Most towns have more than one coffee house; Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Mary’s Bakery, Harry’s Deli but more often than not, customers will drive that extra mile to get their cup of joe and make sure that their own special person behind the counter will be there to start their day. The coffee shop has created a customized customer experience.
There is more to generating customer loyalty than customer satisfaction. A critical component of loyalty is creating a human connection. The more automated our society becomes, the greater the need to determine how, where and when that human connection can be made. Technology has made our lives easier, more productive and yes, more fun, but we miss out if we don’t take time to smell the roses. What’s the point, if we don’t take a moment and reach out, literally, to touch someone?
How does this translate to customer service? I think that our human spirit cannot be removed and customers are not happy with endless robotic encounters. In my first book, The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business, I tell the story about working in my dad’s clothing store when I was young. It’s where I learned my passion for customer service. My father saw all customers as people first, customers second. He would never ask first, “ How can I help you?” He would find out about their weekend or recent vacation, if their son is doing well in college. My dad was much more interested in the customer’s state of mind than their method of payment. If my father was alive today and still had his store, I know he would be successful even with the competition of large retail malls, cool websites and the technology revolution.
Create your own learning experience. Stop by a local coffee shop and survey the landscape. Watch what’s going on. You can learn a lot about the customer experience, perhaps even more than reading the newest best seller on the subject.