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This is the CX Storytime story of…. Never Too Proud for Pine Nuts
Linda and Cindy worked in downtown Vancouver for a talent agency. It was a fun job but pretty intense and stressful. Pretty quickly, Linda and Cindy started a ritual where they would unwind at one of the many local restaurants along Robson Street. They tried a few places for a few weeks… an Asian restaurant here, an Indian restaurant there, fancy places and ones without frills… but it was a little Italian restaurant that seemed to “click” for them.
As with any customer slowly becoming a regular, they nestled into their rituals:
- getting comfortable and familiar with the same waiter (his name was Ryan),
- routinely gravitating to the same section of tables in the restaurant, a booth along the windows but nothing directly in the sun, and
- requesting the same comfort food pasta dishes:
For Linda it was a simple Pesto Penne with a generous portion of a side of pine nuts to compliment the ones already in the serving.
For Cindy, a delicious Linguini Carbonara with flecks of bacon.
They had indeed established their favourites, never wavering. It was comfortable after a stressful day and it was working for them so why mess with it.
This went on for several months. Once a week: Waiter Ryan, a table by the window and pesto penne side pinenuts slash linguini carbonara. Rinse repeat.
Around the end of month four, during one of Linda and Cindy’s regular clockwork visits, Ryan had put in their order and was waiting at the pass bar when the head chef asked to speak with him.
He pulled Ryan aside and gave him the news,
“Sorry, we can’t give you extra pine nuts for free anymore to add to the pesto dish. It’s just too expensive. If she still wants it, we’ll need to charge her an extra two dollars.”
Ryan was a little puzzled as this hadn’t been a problem for the last several months but he was most curious about how it would effect tonight’s evening? He asked,
“What about tonight? They’ve already ordered and it would be a bit of a surprise if I include it now.”
The chef, concluded, “We’ll do it this time but remember for next time.”
Ryan let this sink in. He wanted to think on it before telling Cindy and Linda. He had no idea how his regular customers would take this new information and added cost. Three and a half months of free pine nuts and now they were going to be penalized for coming too often?
His first decision was not to tell Linda and Cindy that night.
Ryan really wanted his regulars to have a great experience but was a little worried about this change so . He decided not to tell them about what it would cost them the next time, rather letting them enjoy their night like they had every time before.
It was a band-aid to a future two dollar dilemma.
A week or so later, right before his shift at the restaurant, Ryan found himself at a nearby grocery store. He made his way up and down and across the aisles, scanning the shelves for his target. Until there it was in the baking area
A bag of pine nuts. Price $10. Sold.
Ryan made his purchase and escorted the bag to the restaurant. Before putting on his apron and getting into the chores that come with starting work, he found a space for the pine nuts on a shelf in the walk in refrigerator.
The head chef saw this and immediately hummed and hawed about the real estate taken up in his fridge. This chef, like most chefs Ryan had worked with, was very protective of his culinary real estate. Thankfully not to the point of being unreasonable. The chef let it go.
Sure enough, when Cindy and Linda arrived a few days later, they stuck to their routine: Ryan, booth, pasta times 2.And when the pesto penne made its way to their table, it was accompanied with not a $2 extra charge but a heaping complementary side of pine nuts.
The night continued, like all the nights before except that once they were finished, Ryan had a special message for them.
Though he would have rather not have had to tell them, he wanted to make sure they were taken care of if he wasn’t their server.
His message, “If I’m not here, as for your super special stash of pine nuts. I’ll let the rest of the servers know.”
And so it was.
And so it continued to be.
And that concludes the story… Never Too Proud for Pine Nuts
Friend Filter: How this is Perceived by Customers
Now, the customer experience is an emotional experience. Let’s look at this as how this could build or break a customer relationship.
How would this experience be perceived by the customer?
From Linda and Cindy’s point of view, they wanted comfortable consistency and reliability.
They were getting this week to week from Ryan and their dining experience so their loyalty was established.
With Ryan’s proactive purchase of the nuts, he showed he cared about the relationship they had with the restaurant. And worked to not change it. Even for as little as two dollars.
What Worked or Could Have Been Done Better
What Can We Learn From this story
Effort Matters – making an effort, even a little one, to help your customer is really valued. Ryan could have just said “OK” when the chef told him the news but instead he took action to better serve and retain his customers.
Small investments can have big impacts – an investment of $10 in a bag of pine nuts reinforced a regular profitable relationship. Those customers spent far more in food and tips over the shelf life of those pine nuts. Look at what small changes or investments you can make to add value for your loyal customers.
Problem Solve – A $2 charge may have had no impact on the customer loyalty of Linda and Cindy but after getting the pine nuts for free for approx. 3 months regularly, suddenly charging felt like punishing them for being regulars. Ryan fixed this problem before it became a problem. Regularly audit your business and check in with your customers to see if you can fix a problem before it becomes an All Caps “PROBLEM”.
Morale of the Story
Kindness has its rewards – A bit of effort and investment delivered with compassion can strengthen a relationship.
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