Traveling on the east coast this week, I’ve spent time using a number of car services, hotels, etc. in which the employees were very friendly (the rude New Yorker stereotype is not the norm, from my experiences, by the way). The problem is that they got a little too friendly, too quickly.
What do I mean? On several occasions, the employees engaged me in conversations about very personal topics, or made inappropriate comments (to or about me and my traveling companions).
Many businesses strive to achieve “customer intimacy,” which means you know a lot about your customers and both sides feel engaged in a relationship. The problem is that it takes time to earn the right to be intimate with your customers, and businesses need to make sure all customer-facing employees understand that.
Earning the intimacy
So how in the heck does a business earn your intimacy? There is no one answer, but some of the things that come to mind:
- Ask and listen: Ask your customer for feedback, ask about their expectations, and then listen to what they say.
- Pay attention : If your customer expresses a preference, try to honor it (better yet, remember that so they don’t have to express it again)
- Do a little extra at any opportunity: In Louisiana, we used the term “Lagniappe” to mean '”a little something extra.” If you give your customers a little extra attention, they will notice. Even little things like a bottle of water before they ask for it.
- Be respectful: Customers can tell when you are handling them with care, and taking them seriously. Don’t just treat them like you want to be treated, do that plus a bit more.
- Anticipate their needs: Some hotels stand out because they give me what I like (such as coffee in the room, a great fitness center, room darkening shades, really comfortable beds, “emergency” supplies for when I forget a toothbrush, easy access to healthy late night snacks or light meals, and so forth. When I see these things I think, “these folks understand me.” When you’re dog tired on the road, that’s a nice feeling. (Hey hotels: I really love free WiFi…)
What kinds of things have you encountered that helped build customer intimacy? Please share them here in comments (and any juicy stories of customer intimacy gone bad are welcome, of course!)