This past Saturday evening my wife and I were looking for a quiet place to have dinner and catch up on each other’s week.  We picked a national sandwich chain because it traditionally was not very crowded.  When we walked in there were only two other tables occupied.  We were soon reminded why a well-known restaurant chain only had two tables occupied on a busy Saturday evening.

Along with my full-size sandwich and bowl of soup I ordered water to drink.  The lady behind the counter gave me the smallest plastic cup they had.  If you have ever ordered water, you know the size I am talking about.  I noticed some medium-sized plastic cups right beside the one I was given.  I then asked if I could have the larger-sized plastic cup as it would save me several trips back-and-forth to the fountain.  After negotiating around the manager’s orders and store policies, I received my medium-sized plastic cup.  We will only return to this restaurant if we just need to get away from everything and have a quiet evening.

The following day, my wife and had lunch after church at a very-crowded Mexican restaurant.  We were soon reminded why this establishment was so crowded.  As we sat down our server, his name was Anthony, said, “Hey, I’ve served you guys before.”  After some friendly banter, he got our drinks (once again water).  At the point he asked my wife, “Do you like queso?”  My wife said, “My husband loves queso!”  He said, “Well I have a gift card for some free queso.  Let me get you some.”  This server got a 25% tip and we will back next Sunday.

On Monday evening, I went to my local PepBoys to replace two brake lights which had burnt out on my wife’s car.  Anyone (except me) could do this but I wanted this location to get my money.  They had done an exceptional job servicing her car two times previously.  When I walked in the man behind the counter said, “Good afternoon Sir.  It is good to see you again.  How can we help you today?”

I was very thirsty after a long day and the store had a Coke machine in the lobby.  I said, “Can you add $1.50 to my bill so I can get something to drink?”  The gentleman behind the counter reached down and pulled out eight quarters.  He then said, “Here, don’t worry about it.  Get you something to drink.”  Shortly thereafter, he handed me my keys and told me the car was ready.  When I asked the cost, he said, “There’s no charge.  It’s just a brake light.”  So for about a $4 investment on their part, they have a loyal customer and raving fan for the foreseeable future.

So let’s recap:

  • Restaurant #1 – Hardly anyone there on a Saturday night.  I had to debate to get a larger-sized water cup.  We may never go back.
  • Restaurant #2 – Very crowded.  Server remembered us.  Free queso.  Big Tip.  We will be back next Sunday and I’ll ask to sit in Anthony’s area.
  • Auto Repair Shop – All bays were full.  Previous positive experiences.  Complimentary beverage and brake light.  I found a mechanic I can trust.

As I reflect on these three experiences within a 48-hour period, I gleaned 5 Ways Businesses (And Churches) Create Raving Fans And Return Customers:

  1. Businesses (And Churches) Create Raving Fans By Leading With “Yes” – No one cares about your policies and procedures.  People want to know what you CAN do for them, not what you CAN’T.  Creativity is not skinny jeans, tattoos and a scarf.  Creativity is figuring out everything you can do to satisfy customers within financial constraints and your core values.
  2. Businesses (And Churches) Create Raving Fans By Focusing On The Right Things – I have this horrifying image in my mind of a manager actually taking valuable time to train a counter person to give customers the cheapest cup possible rather than equipping them to give their customers the richest experience possible.  I’ll say it again – there was a reason only two tables were occupied on a Saturday night.
  3. People Will Value Organizations Who Value People – Successful organizations know the difference between transaction and transformation.  Your customers are not numbers or giving units.  People who like to be remembered and spoken to.  Build personal relationships with your customers.
  4. Businesses (And Churches) Create Raving Fans By Providing Lagniappe – Lagniappe is a Cajun word which means “a little extra”.  The difference between an extraordinary experience for your customers and an ordinary one is just a little extra.  A little queso and a little brake light are small investments which yielded HUGE returns.  Which leads to my next point….
  5. Businesses (And Churches) Who Create Raving Fans Enjoy The Financial Rewards – The businesses and churches which will financially win in the future are those value their customers and show it by providing lagniappe.

What is one thing you learned from these stories which will make you a better business or church?


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