And One Surprising Way to Triple My Morning Order!

I don’t like a lot of acknowledgment when I go out to eat. Maybe it’s the Yankee in me. Keep your distance, please. Some people want to go where everybody knows your name. Not me. A smile and a bit of friendly talk is more than enough. I get uncomfortable when it’s more than that—it’s like I’m being watched. It happens occasionally when I’m out shopping, too, but not nearly as often as at restaurants.

Two points:

1. I want a smile and just a bit of small talk everywhere I go, not just at places I’ve been before. So do all most of your customers. Treat ‘em all with a little friendly acknowledgment, not because they are regulars (which makes others feel like “what am I, chopped liver?”) but because you hope they will be. Don’t reserve this for the “friends” of your establishment.

2. When it’s done with just the right touch, even a cool New Englander can be pleasantly surprised by a bit of familiarity.

• I walked into my favorite local morning hangout today. (Which one? Read here, or here.) A face I recognized was ready to take my order, and she said with a smile, “Hi. You’re early today.” Which I was. I don’t go there daily, but it wasn’t my usual time of day. I was only stopping in for a drink, but her friendly tip of the hat changed my mind, and I got breakfast. Result: I gave them 3x the money I intended to when I stopped there today.

(Note also: “Hi. You’re late today,” would have struck entirely the wrong note, reminding me of a failing instead of complimenting me. I hope she knew the difference and saves a comment for when she can make a customer feel good.)

• Contrast: A couple of weeks earlier, same place, a nice enough cashier who hadn’t been there long enough for me to recognize him, tried to guess my order from seeing me the week before. Annoying because I switch my order pretty often, and he got me wrong anyway, which led to one of those “aren’t you the blueberry with the garden veggie” kind of conversations. Nope. Too uncomfortably familiar, and a little smug, too. Result: I didn’t come in again for over a week. Not a grudge, exactly, but just needing a little distance.

Your turn: How do you feel about familiarity? How much is too much when you’re out, and what policy is encouraged in your business? How do you balance a little formality with a little friendliness to enhance your Customer Experience?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson