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Does your customer feel like a guest or a nuisance?

CaffeIbisMany companies use terms like “guest” and “partner” to convey the intimacy they have with their customers but the reality is that most employees, when given the opportunity, do not behave as though they are serving a valued guest.

If you’d like to test this assertion, simply show up at your choice of retailer after it has closed for the day. Assuming you can make eye contact with an employee through the locked glass door, see if she is willing to do more than point at her watch and mouth the words, “We’re closed.”

Now, this is where corporate types jump in using words like: policy, procedure, overtime, security, protocol, etc. While all of their points are valid, it doesn’t mean they’re right.

To illustrate, imagine that you had planned a baby shower at your home from 1:00 to 3:00pm and that one of your guests was delayed for some reason and didn’t arrive until 3:15pm—after the event had officially ended and the other guests had left.

Would you refuse to open the front door and simply make eye contact with her through the glass side light panel, point to your watch, and mouth the words, “The party’s over”?

Of course not.

Then why is it acceptable to treat “guests” like that in a business setting?

If you’re going to cite the above list of policy, procedure, overtime, security, protocol, etc. as your justification for this behavior, at least stop referring to your customers as “guests.”

Instead, call them what they really are to your closing staff: a nuisance—an interruption; someone we accept money from during business hours but whom we’d prefer not to see after closing time until the next business day.

Just last week I was in Logan, UT. Being a coffee enthusiast and having read about the mountain grown, Triple Certified coffee at Caffe Ibis, I made it a point to stop by on the day of my arrival.

I showed up at 6:45pm and learned that the store closed at 6:30pm. I peered through the glass door and made eye contact with an employee who pointed to her watch and mouthed the words, “We’re closed.”

Before I returned to my car, however, an energetic employee named Natalie unlocked the front door and engaged me.

I mentioned that I was in town for one night from Denver and had hoped to try a cup of Caffe Ibis coffee that I had read so much about and pick up a pound of beans to take back home.

She said, “The machines are off and the register is closed but let me see what I can do.”

A few minutes later, she appeared with a steeping (literally) cup of coffee and a pound of Double French Roast Blend coffee beans.

I thanked her, paid her $15 in cash, and enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee back in my hotel room.

The following day, on my way out of town, I returned and spent another $28.05 on a latte, ground Espresso Roast Blend, and a Caffe Ibis t-shirt. That’s $43.05 in revenue from a guest that many employees would have labeled a nuisance—an interruption in their day.

And my purchasing hasn’t stopped. I’m back in Denver but enjoyed the coffee so much that I’m planning a repeat purchase of Double French Roast Blend coffee beans from their website. My potential future value to Caffe Ibis is significant.

If the first employee was my only impression of Caffe Ibis, I would have left empty-handed, kept my $15, and may or may not have returned the following day to spend another $28.05. And if I hadn’t experienced its coffee in Logan, I certainly wouldn’t be ordering it by the pound on-line.

This is key: Did the first employee do anything wrong? No. She was following policy. I get that. She was also behaving in a way that is usual, ordinary, and expected by most customers.

Natalie, on the other hand, treated me like her guest. She behaved in a way that was beyond what is usual, ordinary, and expected by most customers. She was refreshing and unique. As a result, she not only made a positive lasting impression, she made a sale!

More key points:

1.) Natalie recognized that, while her job function was to complete the closing checklist, the essence of her job—her highest priority—was to serve her guests.

2.) Her decision to open the locked door and engage me, unlike the completion of the closing checklist, was optional.

3.) And finally, her willingness to go the extra mile cost her employer nothing—it was free! In fact, it resulted in $43.05 in additional sales (and counting…).

Natalie created a promoter (that’s me).

Promoters are customers who not only buy your products/services, they wear your t-shirts, are less price sensitive, and recommend your business to others (as I’m doing now).

While the first employee’s service was ordinary, expected, and made me feel like an interruption in her day, Natalie’s was extraordinary, unexpected, and made me feel like a valued guest.

Care to comment? Be my guest.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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