Customer Experience: how two staff in a wine bar left me feeling great and grateful

After a long week we find ourselves at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport

It had been a long week, a week full of interviews, workshops, dinners, fellowship and travel from one site to another in Texas.  I found myself at the Dallas/Fort Worth international airport on a Friday afternoon with my colleague.  As there was some time before we would be boarding our flight back to the UK, we found a wine bar where we could sit, talk and drink some wine, together.

We ordered our wine and a friendly lady took our order and promptly returned with two glasses of wine.  Immersed in conversation, with the glass almost full, I found that I knocked over the glass.  The wine glass shattered and the wine poured onto the table and made its way to the floor.  Suddenly, I found myself self-conscious and embarrassed.

An angel shows up and leaves me relaxed and at ease, soaked in humanity

One of the employees noticed our plight and came over to clean up the mess.  She occurred as relaxed and helpful as if she had witnessed this kind of event many times.  As she was cleaning up she talked to me and assured me that there was nothing wrong, that I had done nothing wrong, that the glasses shattered easily.  And I was not the first person to knock over a wine glass.

I found myself delighted and grateful with this fellow human being.  And I told her that.  Specifically, I thanked her for recognising my embarrassment and putting her humanity into the encounter and thus easing my tension and leaving me relaxed.  She got my thanks and I got she got my thanks – we both smiled at each other.

With our humanity in action and rapport established we found ourselves sharing our personal selves.  She told me about her concerns/troubles like one of her parents being affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  And what that brought with it given that she is the daughter.  I found myself  being touched  by her humanity and reciprocated by telling her about my mother and how she is slowly losing her memory….. Then the time came for us to part company – each thanking the other, each grateful for the humanity the other put into the encounter.  I know that to this day I think of that lady and wish her the very best.

Service does not get better than this

With the cleaning up done, the lady that had served us the wine came to the table and brought me another glass.     She placed it on the table, smiled, and told me that it was on the house.  Both surprise and gratitude were present for me and I found myself smiling and thanking her.

Nothing beats the human touch that touches the heart and leaves the customer feeling grateful

It occurs to me that in our data/technology/process obsessed culture we miss the importance of the people who work in the business and make the business work.  Yes, it is the people that make the business what it is. And determine how the business shows up in the experience of the customers.  Yet, customers also have a role to play.  How customers treat the staff in the business and how the staff in the business treat customers makes such a huge difference.

If you want to generate customer advocacy then ..

I say that if you want to excel in generating customer advocacy then you have to excel at generating surprise, delight and/or gratitude.  And the most effective way to do that is to have in place staff that delight in / excel at dealing with customers.  Staff who have that human touch.  My friend Richard Shapiro calls these folks ‘Welcomers’ and has written a book on it: The Welcomer Edge.

And finally

If you happen to be in the International Airport (Terminal D) then pay a visit to The Bodega Winery.  Say hi to them for me – let the staff know that they have a grateful customer who remembers their generosity, their kindness, the humanity.   Tell them I wish them the very best and hope that one day our paths will cross again.

I thank you for your listening; it is your listening that makes my speaking worthwhile; it is your listening that provides the motivational fuel that results in that which shows up here at The Customer Blog.  I wish you a great weekend.  I wish you a great week.  I wish you great living.  And I say, go out and touch a life!  And if you are in business then touch your customer’s lives – that is how you generate advocacy.

The customer loyalty paradox (Part II): what we can learn from Richard Shapiro and The Welcomer Edge

Lets take a brief look at Tesco: why data driven marketing and product management is not enough

Tesco has been heralded by the marketing and CRM gurus (mostly marketers and those selling CRM systems) as the poster child of how to thrive by taking a data centred, technology enabled, approach to doing business.  So why is it that Tesco is in real trouble – losing customers, losing market share and issuing its first profit warning in decades?  Customer Service and the Customer Experience.  Here is what The Grocer says (italics are mine):

“Tesco has vowed to create 20,000 new jobs in the UK over the next two years in a bid to improve customer service……..chief executive Philip Clarke admitted in January that standards of service and of the overall customer experience in Tesco stores had slipped below the levels he expected. He claimed Tesco stores had been “running hot” for too long, with staff over-stretched and not sufficiently well trained enough.”

Listen to what Richard Shapiro writes in the Welcomer Edge

There is a new book on the market called The Welcomer Edge. it is written by an authority on customer service and retention.  I found value in this book and I want to share it with you as it illuminates the ‘the road less travelled’ when it comes to cultivating customer loyalty: cultivating loyalty through the personal touch.

Wondering what I am getting at? Business is game of people: people working together to create value for people (customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, the community..) whilst being mindful of and outwitting other people (the competitors).  In this post, I pointed I shared RD Laing’s quote:

“Men can and do destroy the humanity of other men, and the condition of this possibility is that we are interdependent.  We are not self contained monads producing no effects on each other except our reflections.We are both acted upon, changed for good or ill, by other men; and we are agents who act upon others to affect them in different ways”

Why is it worth listening to Richard?

From where I stand, Richard gets it totally and provides a new language/framework to think about the situation at hand. Language and frameworks make all the difference – we are ALWAYS living out of / coming from some kind of framework, usually from some ancient philosopher who died centuries ago.

What does Richard say in the Welcomer Edge? 

In his words:

How can we re-introduce the person touch in business?  Today, most service interactions tend to be robotic, and it’s not because of the customerThe salesperson or customer representative frequently does not make an attempt to make a personal connection or take an interest in the prospective purchaser as a person.”

“…what I learned then, every business should learn now: Customers are people first and consumers second.

There is a particular type of staff person who draws new customers to a business and keeps them.  I call this type the “welcomer”. Welcomers create a relationship with new customer that can last a lifetime.  People are so delighted to do business with welcomers that they will have little reason to change allegiance to the company’s competitors.”

What are the central points that Richard is making in The Welcomer Edge?

He is making clear that which is obvious as common sense in ordinary day living and which is anything but obvious when you examine the way businesses operate.  In Richard’s words:

“…when a customer walks out of a store due to a lack of service, that organisation has just killed its goal of generating repeat business.  Without a consistent flow of repeat business, no company can survive in the long term.”

Do you think he is going over the top, allow me to share my Tesco experience with you. I went to shop at Tesco, about a month ago, only to walk out in disgust empty handed.  Why? Because of the poor service.  There were not enough cashiers so I was ‘forced’ to self-serve only to find that after scanning 20+ items the system would not complete the transaction. Why?  Because I had purchased a DVD that had a 18+ rating.  The system told me to wait and someone would come to help me.  I waited several minutes, nobody came and so I left over £100 of shopping there and walked out in frustration vowing never to return.  And I have not returned.

Richard makes a bold claim that I agree with, in his words:

Welcomers are so important that a company that finds, hires, and rewards them has a distinct advantage over a business that does not.

When I read that sentence I think Zappos (customer care lines staffed by welcomers who create that personal touch).  I think about Richer Sounds in the UK, a hi-fi retailer.  I think about the transformation Howard Shultz brought about when he returned as CEO to take control of a failing Starbucks which had lost sight of why customers came to Starbucks:People come to Starbucks for coffee and human connection.”

Final thoughts, recommendation and an invitation

Final thoughts

Business is ALL about people.  It is time to get that many if not most of us feel that we live in an indifferent world especially when it comes to interacting with organisations and the people who staff them.  Customers are human beings and as such they are a social beings who have a deep need for relatedness and when this is not present most of us pay a big price.  Welcomers, whilst few and far between in the business world (partly because they are not welcomed / acknowledged / inspired / rewarded appropriately) are the difference that makes the difference when it comes to service businesses. Welcomers naturally & automatically reach out, connect and unlock the gate to the human heart inside of customers.  Richard talks about many welcomers and one in particular stood out for me, Javier, this is what he says about his role:

..when I worked at the deli counter, my job wasn’t just to slice cold cuts and cheese.  It was to put a smile on someone’s heart.”

If you have any serious interest in cultivating customer loyalty then you have to get the service interactions right.  That means recruiting a context that: attracts Welcomers to you (to join you as members of staff); allows them to do what they do naturally – be great with people; acknowledges and rewards their contribution so that they stay with you.

Recommendation

How to end this post? Above and beyond the valuable framework and language that Richard provides in The Welcomer Edge there is a certain quality – a human quality – that I really like about this book.  On my shelf it sits next to Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, Chris Zane’s Reinventing The Wheel and Howard Shultz’s Onward.  If you are serious about solving the customer loyalty paradox then I recommend reading The Welcomer Edge along with the others that I have listed here. 

Disclosure: Richard sent me two signed copies of The Welcomer Edge. I am tempted to write that this did not affect my sharing here.  And I know that I cannot say that because we are all affected by the kind or unkind acts of our fellow human beings whether we recognise that consciously or not.  All I can tell you is that it occurs to me that I have shared honestly based on the merits of the book and the value I have gotten out of it.

An invitation

If you have subscribed to The Customer Blog and are keen to read The Welcomer Edge then please email me (maz@thecustomerblog.co.uk) with your address and I will post the spare signed copy of The Welcomer Edge.  Please note that I have only one copy to share so if you want it then email me fast: when it’s gone, it’s gone!