There's a Starbuck's right down the block from my office. Of all the coffee shops in town it's definitely the most convenient place for me to stop. I used to go there a few times a week but, lately it's been much less. Over the course of the past three years there's only been one or two people who have worked there the entire time. One is Suzy. I know Suzy's name, a little about her family, her likes, dislikes, etc. Yet whenever I stop in Suzy will still ask what my name is (hasn't changed) and what I want to drink (same boring Americano). Now, I go out of my way not to stop at that Starbuck's.
Gourmet coffee is a premium product. If a 16oz cafe latte costs $3.50 you're paying $28 per gallon (and you thought gas was expensive)! The expectations are different at Starbuck's than they are at the 7/11 across the street. At 7/11 I get pretty much what I expect; coffee that's hot and sweet and a smile at the checkout stand. But, at the premium coffee shop I expect a pleasant greeting, prompt service and a superior product. I expect that eventually they'll learn my name and maybe even what I order. Every once in a while they might do something to surprise and delight me. It doesn't have to be much; a free sample, special deal or even original conversation could keep me coming back.
Was it the quality of the product or it's cost that caused me to avoid the Starbuck's down the street? No, it was the human element. I didn't want to buy from those people anymore. They didn't seem to care about me because they never took a moment to get to know me. You want to be a better Marketeer? Get to know your customers. Talk with them and not just when it's time to make a sale. Learn their likes and dislikes, about their family, their goals in life and their dreams and how you can you help them acheive them. Surprise them once in while; it could be a gift certificate to a restaurant they love, green fees at their favorite course or something daring like a Chinese foot massage. Maybe it's as simple as a handwritten note. Getting to know your customers will not only make you better at business but make you a better person as well.