I was in the grocery store the other day and this nice older gentleman was driving around his shopping cart. As he passed people he would say hello or stop to chat for a minute. I doubt he knew many of them, but just about everyone responded with a smile and walked a way a bit happier. Think about your favorite businesses. Do you go back just because of the quality of their products or do the people that work there make a difference?
BiggbyBob has built a network of coffee shop franchises (Biggby’s) based on a friendly, welcoming place to have a cup of coffee or work out of the office. Every time you go in, you’re greeted by the staff and you can stay as long as you want (although I think they require you to purchase something, which is reasonable). BiggbyBob uses social media to build relationships and have conversations with customers, but he also travels around to individual franchised stores to converse with customers in person (and franchisees).
Our favorite local bagel shop, Blazing Bagels, operates under similar circumstances. A loyal group of regulars comes in every week to get a bagel and coffee and have a chat with each other and the owner. Another local favorite, Pastries by Ellen, also has a friendly and welcoming environment. You’re always welcomed with a smile and treated with respect.
Do all these places have great food and drinks? Yes. Could you get similar food somewhere else? Probably. But there’s something to be said for treating customers like people and being friendly. You give them a reason to want to come back. Sure, your competitive advantage may be in your awesome soup, but someone else is probably making better soup. People will be loyal to the places where they’ve built a relationship, and they’ll tell their friends (free advertising!). Being friendly can go a long way – and it costs so little.
What are your favorite places? What makes them stand out?