Several years ago I made plans to fly out and meet with a client once or twice a week for about two months, and my office made eight weeks' worth of advance reservations for me at a business-oriented hotel conveniently located across the street from the client's office.
So I went out for my first set of client meetings and then showed up at the hotel that evening to check-in. As the desk clerk was processing my check-in, a manager came out and greeted me by name.
"Hello, Mr. Peppers, welcome to our hotel," he smiled. I smiled. "Would you mind if we took your picture?"
What? Take a picture? Why? I asked.
Because, he said, you've made several reservations with us for future dates, and we'd like to put your picture up on our employee bulletin board on days you plan to check in, so the people on duty can recognize you when you arrive.
It worked. The very next week (and for virtually every visit after that) when I came through the door the bellman smiled and said "Hello, Mr. Peppers, welcome back," as he offered to help me with my bag. The desk clerk, the cashier at the sundries store, and even the waitress at breakfast all greeted me by name. It was an inexpensive hotel, but I don't think I ever felt quite so royally treated.
If you want a customer to trust you, treat the customer the way you'd like to be treated yourself, if you were the customer. This doesn't mean giving your product away at a loss, nor does it mean never disagreeing with a customer. What it does mean is asking yourself at all times whether you would consider your own actions "fair" if you were on the other side. Is this the way a friend would treat a friend?
The sad truth is that the overwhelming majority of businesses don't even take the rudimentarysteps necessary to recognize and remember their customers individually. Instead, they operate on what Martha Rogers and I call the "Goldfish Principle," and sometimes the results are almost comically non-personal.
But recognizing and remembering a customer is one of the most effective ways any service business can demonstrate humanity and earn a customer's trust, and it really doesn't require a high degree of technology or an overly complex set of processes. It might involve something as simple as taking a customer's picture, or even counting license plates.
What steps can you take to help your service employees recognize customers, and demonstrate your business's humanity?