There’s an old saying most have heard, “customers may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel” — author unknown. To that end, recently I was working on my wellness goals by walking around Manhattan with my youngest daughter to celebrate her 18th birthday. We averaged about 19,000 steps per day, which helped counter the 19,000 calories of NY style pizza we were also ingesting daily. What lessons can one learn by walking around a city like New York that applies to your business? Oh, not much…except little things like the importance of customer service and relationship building.
From the customer service aspect, I experienced first-hand the difference it makes when people take the time to connect on a human level and build relationships as they get to know their customers. Let’s face it, NYC isn’t necessarily the first place many think of when someone mentions customer service. I think in part, it’s because it’s such a fast-paced, transaction-heavy environment that (almost) never sleeps. I say almost because Ray’s pizza in Times Square was only open from 9 a.m. – 4 a.m. Just imagine the mind boggling number of business transactions that happen daily across the entire city, from taxi and Uber rides to department and specialty stores to Broadway theaters, restaurants, food trucks, etc. etc. Consider too, based on the volume, that the average transaction takes place quickly. There’s barely time to say hello to people, or learn the name of the taxi driver. But then there was this tour guide…
Yes, we took a tour — that’s sort of what TOURists do. There’s no shame in that. But our particular tour was, and I’m not making this up, a pizza tour in Brooklyn. Our tour guide, Alexis, was phenomenal! Most people wouldn’t believe all that we learned in 3 hours of touring (and more importantly, sampling from) Brooklyn’s finest pie makers. Alexis took the time to learn about all of us and did a great job (whenever possible) of relating to our group on a personal level, whether we were from Philly, Texas, Wisconsin or Georgia. The pizza was great (as expected) but the success of the tour was 100% due to the interpersonal skills of our guide. The pizza makers were also very personable and memorable — like Lou at Sam’s in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. Lou is a 3rd generation pizza maker who still runs the restaurant his grandfather opened. Rather than protecting the family secret sauce, he loved talking about the nuances of how he makes such incredible pizza! Even more, he loved watching us enjoy it and actively encouraged our questions.
As I thought about all this, I realized most successful businesses understand that there are people at each end of business transactions and therefore, it’s vitally important to build relationships. Those relationships lead to trust. Trust leads to business because more than technology, people invest in people. Let me say that again, people invest in people. They come back for repeat business, or they refer a company to others based on trust they have in them. For example, I would gladly recommend Alexis and his company in the future — heck, I’d go back for the same tour in another area like Greenwich Village next time!
More than the world-famous pizza, the Broadway hits, or the spectacular views from the Empire State Building, it was the friendly, customer-centric, easy-to-do-business-with people like Alexis and Lou that impressed me most about the Big Apple. They’re the reason I would go back. And that’s exactly what I most want to hear from our customers. Repeat business based on a trusted relationship is the greatest measure of success any of us can hope to achieve.