A funny thing happened to me a few weeks ago as I was standing in line at the bagel store near my office. As I approached the front, the woman behind the counter (Jennifer) smiled and said,
“Toasted sesame with raspberry jam and a small black coffee to go?”
Startled, I replied, “Perfect!”
The fact is, not only was I surprised, I was impressed that she remembered my daily order. After four months as a customer, I had finally become, “a regular.”
As I walked out with my breakfast, it occurred to me that in a small way, Jennifer had elevated me to “special customer” status, and in doing so, had increased the value of her employer’s business.
Here’s why. . .
• I’m no longer anonymous. Granted, being known by one employee at the bagel store in Reading, Massachusetts isn’t quite the same as being recognized and seated immediately at some fancy Hollywood bistro, but the concept is exactly the same: People like to feel special. And now that they know who I am, my interaction with that business is a lot more than just buying a bagel and coffee; it’s personal, and frankly, more enjoyable.
• I’m an easy transaction. Sometimes when I get to the front of the line now, Jennifer already has my order ready. She just rings it up and hands it over. That makes it more convenient for me, and lowers overhead for the store by reducing transaction time.
• I’m more likely to bring friends. If only to show off my special status, I’ve got an incentive to tell other people, as well as to suggest that we go there to eat when somebody comes to town and wants to meet for breakfast. I bring other customers to the bagel store.
• I’ve got a reason to remain loyal. Jennifer is rewarding me for being a long time customer. In a world where most marketing promotions are focused on rewarding new customers (“Sign up now and get three months of service free,” or whatever), I’m compensated for having stuck around.
Notice that this creates a long term, competitive advantage for the bagel store. No competitor can match the level of personalization that I enjoy without my involvement, and since I don’t want to spend another four months “teaching” a new place about my preferences, Jennifer has effectively locked me in as a customer. It would be inconvenient for me to go elsewhere at this point. This is a HUGE payoff for the bagel store: It extends the lifetime value of a customer, and does so in a way that requires no discounting or special offers.
Bottom Line: Finding ways to transform the customer experience from mere transactions into full blown relationships — whether online or offline — has tremendous implications on profitability. If relationships are considered “soft stuff” within your organization, remember that they have a direct impact on the “hard stuff:” revenue, customer to customer referrals, overhead, and customer turnover.