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January 19, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

Customer Experience and the Importance of Making People Feel Special

Every morning I stop on my way to the station to get a coffee…my Soya Latte is very much a part of my commute, even in summer! I have stopped for a couple of years at one particular coffee shop (Cafe Nero, for those in the UK) initially for their loyalty scheme which basically gives you every tenth coffee free – a free coffee every other Friday seemed like a good idea!

I say initially because they started charging extra for soya milk. Other coffee shops didn’t, but I stayed loyal. That was because I had got to know the 3 or 4 baristas who worked the morning shift. They were friendly, warm, engaging, always smiling and went out of their way not only take the time to indulge in some small talk but also (very important for coffee fans) they remembered what you liked to order. I was only in the shop a minute or two, but for that minute or two they made me, and no doubt anyone else stopping for a coffee, feel valued and important.

Now they probably didn’t earn much, and I don’t know what customer service training their company did, and they may have only done it to make a repetitive service sector job more interesting…but the thing is they got my custom because they made me feel special and valued, even though their product now was not the cheapest, and to be honest, the coffee was probably no better or worse than any other shop I could have gone to.

Now I’m not a master of suspense, and I’m writing in the past tense, so I’m sure that you can guess what’s coming next!

Yes…they’ve all moved on. One left completely to do something different, and the others were promoted to different branches. Unbelievably, management just let it all happen within a week or so…one week they were there, and within what seemed a few days there were different baristas.

And guess what…I don’t go there anymore. The new baristas most certainly did not make me feel special or valued. In fact, with possibly one exception, they made me feel the opposite, as if serving me was a chore. There were a couple of specific instances of rudeness and off-handedness (I won’t bore you with details) that made me think – enough is enough, I can get better value elsewhere.

When the experience is good, factors like cost can often come second…but when the customer experience is bad…

All businesses can learn from this, but I wonder how many of us really put their heads on the block and find out how we’re doing?

It reminded me of a customer satisfaction survey that I got handed on a plane on my way home from a holiday last year. The tour company usually performs well in independent reviews. The final question was…

 ‘Did we make you feel special on your holiday??

If so tell us what we did to make you feel special, and if not please tell us how we could have improved, to make you feel special.’

 Clearly they want to get feedback, and aren’t afraid to give their customers a voice to find out how they are really performing.

Which makes me wonder….

 Are there any recruiters out there brave enough to ask those questions of their clients and candidates?? Willing to find out from their community what they could do to create a special experience?

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3 Comments

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  1. Trish McFarlane / Jan 19 2010 1:44 AM

    Mervyn, I hadn’t really thought of good customer service making me feel “special”, but it really does. Even when funds are tight, I still frequent Nodstrom’s department store because they are so polite, they will go find what I want while I wait and relax, and often, they send me a hand written thank you card for shopping there. It’s amazing. So, I understand why you would have been so loyal to your coffee shop. It’s sad that it wasn’t company culture but was their individual actions.

    I’ll be interested to see what recruiters say about creating that unique experience for candidates. Nice post.

  2. Tammy Colson / Jan 19 2010 1:48 AM

    This type of customer service experience is what keeps me loyal to a company when all other logical factors tell me to move on.

    Particularly in the coffee realm, in my old hometown I would literally drive out of my way to get my coffee because it was always ready when I got to the window, it was always right and I could prepay once a month for my coffee (on a card)

    I moved, they didn’t. But I probably paid an extra .30 per cup for that coffee, when there was another shop actually on my way to work that was less expensive, but didn’t give me as great a level of service.

    Companies absolutely have to engage me to keep my business, otherwise, I might use them once, but I’m probably going to continue to shop until I find that CS experience.

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