the indys have it – friendly service is all about feeling special

It’s no coincidence that Cheers was the place ‘where everybody knows your name’

I think I can safely say that there aren’t many restaurants in the world that will go out of their way for me or that even know my name.  In fact the only one is probably local Cantonese Zen Rendezvous.

In fairness, I’ve been going there since I was about ten, so they’ve had plenty of time to get to know me.  But it’s lovely to walk into somewhere where not only do you feel instantly comfortable but they know who you are and what you like to eat. 

When I visit with a close friend we can cheekily ask them to “bring food” and amazing dishes we’d have never considered ordering turn up, guaranteed to cater to our various no animal protein / minimal spice requirements.  It’s not unknown for complimentary off-menu puddings to magically appear too :)

Anyway, this got me thinking about how modern technology (like loyalty schemes and EPOS data) encourages brands to try and adopt a customer closeness / reward loyalty / surprise and delight approach – and how it can FAIL.  Like Boots noticing I buy a lot of baby wipes (they’re dead handy round the stables) and then sending me vouchers for nappies…

 It’s hard to beat personal service of the old fashioned, human, face to face variety.  Of course the digital world makes making people feel special much easier – plant a cookie and next time your customer appears you know what they bought, where they went and so on.  Offline it gets harder.  Which is why getting real live staff engaged, empowered, on brand and creating positive interactions with customers is so important – and so rarely done well. 

I think I might have posted before (can’t find it!) about how we shouldn’t assume that the customer journey ends at the nice shelf talker.  The purchase experience, as delivered by staff on the shop floor is every bit as important.

As long as independents can differentiate by having owner-drivers who encourage staff to make visiting the store a pleasure (take the local feed merchants who not only know where I stable my horse but remember I was in asking about vetwrap six weeks ago), the Big Brands are never going to entirely take over.  Because it’s hard to track feeling special on a U&A or factor it into a brand pyramid.  And sometimes, there’s just no replacement for good old fashioned friendly service.

Thanks to Katie at fab regional foodie blog Leeds Grub (@Leedsgrub) for giving me the idea for this post.

2 thoughts on “the indys have it – friendly service is all about feeling special

  1. I think you’re spot on. With the flip side being, of course, that independents who don’t adopt this philosophy are likely to struggle. See also last series of Mary Queen of Shops!

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