Getting Personal: It’s NOT Just for Valentine’s Day

Having the products and services your customers want and delivering them consistently is merely table stakes today.  The real challenge is whether you get personal with customers!

Let’s face it, we live in a service economy and are surrounded by service providers.  Yet, oddly, we often feel that we are woefully underserved or worse – completely unnoticed.

In my latest book, Leading the Starbucks Way, I explore the common personal connections sought by customers and the undeniably powerful way that Starbucks appeals to those unifying, universal truths.  “As Jean-Marie Shields, director of Brand Strategy, at Starbucks, notes, ‘The number one request or desire of every human around the world is to be seen and heard. The magic of the Starbucks brand comes from a willingness to actively see and hear our customers on many levels.’ At the individual service level, for example, the “seeing” and “hearing” aspects to which Jean-Marie refers come with an initial greeting that acknowledges a customer’s presence and starts a human connection. Karen Joachim, a customer from Albert Lea, Minnesota, notes, ‘Quite often when I buy something, I feel invisible. Starbucks is a different story. They actually make a momentary but noticeable connection.’”

Have you ever had a service experience so compassionate and caring that you had to share it with someone? (Probably on Facebook.)  You most likely walked away having been acknowledged in such a real, organic way that you felt understood and valued.  Starbucks knows that each customer is more than just “a tall latte” and “a grande nonfat mocha.”  They’re Scott and Pam, each of whom have preferences and nuances worthy of being recognized and remembered.

Getting personal starts with genuine attention and an interested spirit.  The person you are about to interact with is just that – a person.  You both carry burdens, you are both likely overextended, perhaps overwhelmed, – but here she is – at your counter, on the phone, inquiring on your website.  The compassion and caring involved in acknowledging her as a person rather than “just another customer” creates a split-second connection that sets the tone for her experience.

Authentic personal interest fosters customer engagement and loyalty. Efficiency, accuracy, and the myriad of other things we value in a service exchange are even more influential when we, the customer, have been truly seen…and not as an interruption or a problem but as a truly “BELOVED GUEST.”

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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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