Profiting from CustServ: Know Your Customer

This post is from Penni Wells, our Leadership Quantified Expert in internal and external Customer Service - and, particularly, how to profit from the big and little things that you can do...starting now.
Today I forgot to bring lunch to the office, so I wandered over to the 7-Eleven convenience store on the corner. It was there I was reminded, once again, that effective customer service - which is even more profitable in the long run - is the result of people in tune with their jobs and with their customers. The rest just comes naturally. 

Purchasing my favorite tuna sandwich and a bottle of water from the gentlemen who I often see at the counter, I took my change and said “Thank you”.  As I was turning to leave he said “Thank you, mija.”* 

I couldn’t help but smile.

First, at fifty-mmfph years of age, I am nowhere near a mija, but I had been in the store with friends a few weeks earlier when the same man was at the counter. He had referred to me then as "mija." I had smiled, remarked how pleased I was that his eyesight was so poor and thanked him for making my day. We all laughed and left the store.

Although I'm quite sure I'm not the only one who receives such flattery there, it was clear today that he remembered the exchange and me. Even more compelling was that I saw actual children making purchases, yet he did not refer to any of them with any sort of label. 

I walked back to my office marveling at how smart this is! Adults like to feel younger and children like to feel older, no matter how old we are. But the respect shown in NOT referring to the kids as mija/mijo and the obvious flattery of a ‘mija’ tossed in my direction was not only fun for me, but good for business.

Here’s how I know –
Although early in the day and late in the afternoon the store can get crowded with kids from the nearby middle-school, it never seems overrun or out of control. People of all ages seem to be there and everyone gets helped.  
There are three other establishments within 50 feet that offer many of the same or similar items, and two of them are often empty when I walk by.
Our office is near a corner, but can be a little tricky to find. When providing directions we have a tendency to say “the third building over” or “next to the Café” (an establishment we all frequent as well). But I find myself saying, “Two doors down from the 7-Eleven.” True, it’s an obvious indicator, but I use it as a landmark because of the sense of connectedness I feel with this particular store.
So what does this mean to you, as a small business owner - or, for that matter, anyone who works with the public? Stores in this particular chain are franchise owned. Although they are identified with 7-Eleven, Inc. each has to make its own way to gain market share in their area. And even the busiest store can suffer losses (in merchandize, time, return customers) if the climate and the culture are not tuned in with its constituency. 

I have no idea what kind or extent of customer service training 7-Eleven, Inc. provides its franchise owners or their employees. I do know that in 2006 there was a shift in company culture to "Servant Leadership" with the “I C.A.R.E. About People and Teamwork” program - but I don’t know how much influence this had or has on our particular store on the corner.

What's more important - and is very clear - is that the behavior of the staff and the culture in this store are not the result of a corporate initiative, campaign or contest. The management and staff of this store understand their client base and manifest that understanding through engaging with customers, respectfully, exactly where they are. 
* Slang of the Spanish phrase mi-hija or little daughter. Used as a term of endearment for young women. Mijo is the male equivalent.

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