Do your customers annoy you?
This is a picture from a cash register at a little coffee shop I go to in San Francisco when I’m up in the city for work. (I typically work remote at my home in Orange County and spend a couple weeks up in SF each month.) It’s a cute little corner store; but the food and coffee are unremarkable and the vibe in the store created like signs like the ones above makes me feel unwelcome at best and an annoyance at worst. If they weren’t so damn convenient I’d want to stop patronizing them just for their attitude against their customers.
If it’s hard to read the signs say:
- Sorry cash only
- Cell phones = no coffee
- Free Internet Wireless with food purchase ($5 minimum)
These are just three of a variety of other signs telling you what you can’t do, bathrooms for customers only, no cell phones inside, etc. All of it just create an environment that makes it feel like its me versus the coffee shop. I don’t feel welcome – I feel like an adversary engaged in a battle over scarce resources where I might even have to bargain to get my coffee at a reasonable price. This is the complete wrong vibe to create between a customer.
Update: Doc Searls riffs on a WSJ article about unfriendly coffee shops and says he hasn’t run into it yet. He should step into this one.
Your customer should not be your adversary
It got me thinking, how is our business thinking of customers? How is your business (or you) thinking about customers? Are they your adversaries? Are they annoyances? Are they irresponsible dimwits that need to be reminded of how to behave in your establishment? Or are they your friends and guests? Do you collaborate with them to create a welcome environment? Do you build an experience that creates a welcome atmosphere based on mutual respect, admiration and appreciation?
How do you think of your customers?
If your business is like this coffee shop it’s time for a change
If you find that your business doesn’t trust your customers and treats them like irresponsible children that need to be beaten into submission its time to dig into why your relationship is the way it is and what can be done to change it to one of cooperation and trust. Without customer trust and cooperation your business will never reach its potential. It will never be more than a service provider. It will never create a reason for customers to go to bat for it. It will never survive – because someone will come along and create that environment and wow your customers into forgetting all about you.
Change the way you think about and talk to your customers
This little coffee shop could create a far better experience by being more friendly, personable and open about its requests. A small sign that says “To ensure a stress-free and quick order for everyone please refrain from using your cell phone in line.” would be much better than the above. A small sign at the entry that says “Our coffee shop strives to create a relaxed and welcoming environment for all guests. Please step outside to use your cell phone.” would be even better.
The way you think about your customers informs how you talk to your customers which translates directly into how your customers perceive the relationship between you and them and how they think about (and more importantly feel about) your business.
If you make customers feel welcome, respected and treated well you will win. If you think of them as people trying to take profit out of your till and irritate your staff you lose.
How can you improve the way you think about your customers and create a cooperative relationship instead of an adversarial one?