Lee brought three lattes to our table. He put one cup down, made eye contact with each of us, and asked how we were doing today. Then he stopped as three customers met his gaze. He smiled and chatted for about 10 seconds... and then Lee put down the other two cups and walked away to tend to other customers.
It takes mere seconds to make a connection, to really look and listen to customers. Lee delivered a free "wow" along with those lattes--and earned himself a memorable tip.
Sure, your business may be more complex than beverage service, but that’s exactly why a few seconds of truly personal attention can blow people’s minds. And it doesn’t have to cost anything. Here are nine ways to dazzle your customers without spending a dime:
1. "Just thinking of you." At my company’s recent event, blogger, author, and speaker Peter Shankman challenged the audience to try this: scroll through your contacts and pick five people you haven’t talked to in a year. Call them and say, "I'm thinking of you. How are you?" It’s that easy. Who knows? This might be the day they need your product or service.
2. Eye contact. Every weekday, we see an estimated 900 people. How many do you really make eye contact with? One or two? Lee the latte server had it right. A 10-second chat with customers was remarkable because his eye contact said, "I’m present. I’m listening. I care."
3. Smile. Show off those crow’s feet! Really genuine smiles like a Duchenne smile (first noted by a French physician in the 19th century) includes the area around the eyes, cheeks, and mouth. There’s nothing like a winning smile to show customers you appreciate them and their business. Speaking with a customer by phone? Smile while talking and they will hear it in your voice.
4. Appropriate touch. Let’s preface this section by saying this can be very sensitive and depends on each unique situation and relationship. A handshake that lasts micro-seconds longer or a light touch on the shoulder or pat on the back can convey warmth and sincerity to an employee or customer. Hugs may be well intended but could be uncomfortable for the recipient so unless you know them well, let their actions take the lead.
5. Shared interests. While waiting for my husband and son to shop at a boutique men’s clothing store, Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” came on the radio and I started to groove. The owner was busy and could have ignored me, but instead we had an animated conversation about the Best EWF Concert Ever. Music created an opportunity to bond and we ended up staying longer--and buying much more than planned.
6. Personal interests. Remember a few details about your regular customer’s life so the next time they come in you can ask, “How are the kids doing on swim team?” Even if your customer isn’t local, Facebook, blogs, and other social sites provide clues about triathlon training, family reunions, and trips to Burning Man.
7. Compliments. Is there anything better than getting a compliment out of the blue? “I love that color on you!” “You really took care of that project quickly.” To successfully deliver a compliment, it must be honest and specific. General comments like “You’re a rock star!” come across as blasé or insincere.
8. Lend a hand. Everybody needs something. Maybe it’s a new babysitter or referral for a plumber. Or maybe like my recent challenge, you need to find housing for a college student in Copenhagen. Create a special connection by coming to the rescue of a customer or prospect. And Shankman says when they thank you, just reply, “I know you’d do the same for me.”
9. Likes and dislikes. Big businesses, like hotels, use customer relationship management software to help them remember you like foam pillows instead of feather. Track and show customers you care about their preferences, like Apple’s Pages instead of Microsoft Word.
Pick one of these ideas and try to dazzle one person tomorrow. See how customers respond and chances are they’ll come back for more of what you’re serving.