Being a Fred (or Davide) – Leveraging Passion to Actually Ensure Customer Loyalty

Recently, I had the good fortune to spend a month in a Tuscan farmhouse. In addition to alluring art, architecture, food, and wine, Italy is known for its “coffee counter culture.” This ritualistic morning trek involves standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other patrons to down an espresso or cappuccino and indulge in a pastry. Throughout Italy, coffee shops and cafes are on virtually every corner, and that’s where Davide (pictured above) comes in.

Despite widespread competition, I became a loyal customer of Davide’s cafe, “Osteria Il Ceppo” in Monteriggioni. Il Ceppo’s coffee and pastries weren’t superior to other options, but Davide’s hospitality and passion for service were unmatched. Despite my rusty Italian and Davide’s limited English, he connected with me as he did all his regulars. He asked my name on the first visit and remembered it from that day forward. He welcomed me and all others each day with warmth and enthusiasm. Despite a bristling morning pace, he engaged all of us personally and inquisitively. No one left Il Ceppo without Davide’s authentic expression of gratitude.

The time I spent standing at the coffee counter of Il Ceppo reminded me of one of my favorite customer experience (CX) books written by my dear friend Mark Sanborn, titled.

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In The Fred Factor, Mark swiftly and artfully spotlighted his postman, Fred. Through a series of stories, Mark captures Fred’s unexpected and exceptional passion for service and how that passion resulted in extraordinary customer care. In a book rich with takeaways, here’s my take on four key lessons from The Fred Factor:

  1. Everyone makes a difference – The difference you make can either be positive or negative, and the size of that difference will be proportional to the consistency of your enthusiasm and effort.
  2. Success is built on relationships – It’s delusional to think any of us are “self-made.” Isaac Newton expresses this awareness by noting, “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Sustained success comes from forging partnerships and maintaining relationships that offer reciprocal benefits.
  3. You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny – Extraordinary experience creators don’t buy the emotional engagement of those they serve. Instead, they pay attention to the wants, needs, and preferences of others and execute to meet those needs in ways that exceed expectations.
  4. You can reinvent yourself regularly – Customer experience excellence is a matter of mindset and choice. The next customer interaction provides a fresh opportunity to choose passionate and extraordinary service delivery. Successful service professionals reset their focus over and over again. They let go of negative interactions quickly and bring the best of themselves to the next customer.

Are you a Fred or Davide? Are you a service professional that people want to write or tell positive stories about? If not, isn’t it time for reinvention, recommitting to making a difference, focusing on building relationships, and passionately creating value?


To learn more about how to increase individual service professionalism, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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