BIG Service Impact

Local Businesses Recognized for Excellent Service

(I wrote the following article for the May 2012 issue of Haymarket Lifestyle Magazine)

A few weeks ago, I called Pei Wei Asian Diner in Gainesville to order dinner for my family.  We tend to order our favorites every time:  honey chicken and Mongolian beef.  The cool thing about it is that Pei Wei knows this already.  They use caller-ID technology and they greet me by name when I call and their computer also has a history of my orders so they know what I’m probably going to order.  They even know that I like the Honey Chicken without the garnish on top.  How cool is that?

If you’re a local business owner feeling the pinch, don’t give into the temptation of lowering prices.  HINT:  It won’t improve your business nearly as much as you may think.  Instead, focus on two important qualities that all successful businesses posses:  FRIENDLY and MEMORABLE.  The best part about improving these two parts of your business is that they essentially cost nothing.  Here are some examples of friendly and memorable service that I have experienced locally:

  • 14910 Washington Street in Haymarket has been 3 different restaurants since I moved to Haymarket.  The first two failed.  El Vaquero West has been there for several years.  They are packed every night.  Why?  The food is great.  They gladly re-fill your drinks and chips/salsa at no extra charge.  They make you feel special by calling you amigo/amiga.  Oh…and they’re ALWAYS smiling.
  • Zinga Frozen Yogurt in Gainesville has established a wonderful Facebook fan page.  They post pictures of their customers.  They run promotions on Facebook all the time (e.g. first 10 people to come in and mention this Facebook post get free yogurt tonight).  NOTE:  Facebook is free.
  • BB&T’s Heathcote Blvd branch has quarterly customer appreciation days.  It’s more than just a free coffee mug…there is free food from local restaurants and they allow their customers to set up booths for free to market their products/services to all attendees.  Brilliant.
  • Ever drive by Gainesville Chick-fil-A at lunchtime?  It’s easy to figure out why cars are wrapped around the parking lot while across the street, BK and Taco Bell only have a handful of cars in line.  Chick-fil-A provides a consistently friendly experience on every visit.  They also understand that children ultimately make the final call on which fast food joint to go to, so they hold themed events almost every week.  In fact, each Chick-fil-A has a marketing manager!

If your business didn’t have the great 1st quarter you were hoping for, I’m challenging you to put more time into the experience that you provide to your customers every time they call or walk in your door.  What are you doing to make them want to go tell others about you?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Start learning your customers’ first names and begin greeting them by first name when they come into your place of business.  EVEN BETTER: If you’re a dry cleaner or similar business, start recognizing your customer’s car as they pull up and have their order ready when they walk in.  I go into my dry cleaners every week.  And every week they greet me with “PHONE NUMBER!”  Not great.
  • Invite your 10 best customers to meet you for a cup of coffee and ask them why they do business with you.  They will give you a report card that no “business expert” could ever provide!
  • When a customer leaves and says Thank-You, quit saying “No Problem” and replace it with “My Pleasure”.   Ritz-Carlton started saying this years ago and they’re one of the most recognized brands in the country when it comes to memorable service.
  • Start a business page on Facebook and cater it to your business.  Don’t make it a constant sales pitch for your company.  If you’re a florist, post pictures of your best arrangements.  If you’re an insurance agent post a picture of your proud customer who just came by to add their brand new car to their policy.  If you’re a restaurant, post your daily specials at the same time, every day.