The world has advanced much and there is a lot of useful and productive technology to work with and leverage whether it is an industry, company or individual that is the topic of discussion. This website has touched on many of them with much more to come, but this post is about good old fashioned customer service.
A good friend of mine Nissar Ahamed who runs the CareerMetis website e-mailed me reminiscing about a business, which I once had introduced to him. By introducing, I mean, he and I once walked over to grab an egg sandwich. He also picked up a coffee. It is a simple, and rather small, coffee stand in the PATH below King Street West in Toronto called Treats. The name is unimportant as is the location really. Down there one literally finds dozens of counters and shops serving morning coffee, banana bread, croissants and juice to passers-by on their way to work. Nissar dropped me a message saying how he misses the (non-descript, cramped, limited menu, with no name recognition, plain – these are my words) place. In fact, Treats is a mini-chain, but as far as companies go theirs is rather unknown and, as mentioned, the take-out only coffee shop is barely noticeable or stands out amidst the plethora of better-known and flashier competition. Nissar even mentioned that the Tim Hortons he now frequents (since his office location has changed) is no match for the old place.
Now, you are asking yourself, what is so great about this bona fide kiosk that beats everyone else and puts a $3.5 billion company to shame? Is it the coffee? Is it the muffins? Is it the croissants? Could it be the egg sandwich they prepare? Is it the swift service or the bottom-less beverages? Perhaps they have the best banana and apples in the bowl ready for customers every morning?
The answer: none of the above. It is the… customer service. Oh, how… non-digital.
Grossly assuming they have 250 customers a day I made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that on average they have over 66,000 individuals to serve a year. Yet, the middle-aged East Asian couple who run the place will always smile, always thank you, always semi-bow or wave and seem grateful to have you as a customer. There is a glint in their eyes (don’t worry, inside sales professionals, there could be a ‘glint’ in the voice too). It is a small thing that costs them nothing and they do not have to do, but recurs day in and day out.
The result? Customer loyalty, well wishes and a very small business that can stand head and shoulders above mega-chains, flashier competitors, cool businesses with Instagram accounts, advertising budgets, marketing departments and real-estate location managers. The experience and service there are tools in their arsenal that they deploy without presumably even meaning to and, in this day and age, the genuine care translates to word-of-mouth, loyalty and business.
What does interest one is how whether it is a cultural thing or an ingrained habit they seem to be unaware of their own behaviour.
It is a lesson for all of us in the sales game, management business, human-to-human interaction domain and for anyone who has noticed the world is being commoditized. I once personally walked 10 minutes out of my way to get to the couple, walking past tens of businesses who could have sold me something very similar for a morning sandwich. The point is not the mere minutes, but the many other choices. I don’t even drink coffee.
*Things That Need To Go Away: Assuming technology overcomes the need for cherishing and serving customers.