Regardless of the type of business you operate, repeat business is likely essential to your success. Yet, many entrepreneurs focus more on new business rather than creating a stellar experience that makes it easy for someone to want to continue to do business with you.
Case in point, restaurants. Have you ever been to a restaurant for the first time and rather than made to feel like the staff and management is happy you’re there, you feel like you’re in the way?
Recently, I had just such an experience.
I live in a very small rural community. It’s so small there’s not even a signal light in town.
There are very few choices in the immediate area to have a sit down meal. One is the Sunrise Café. Another is a pizza parlor.
I love going to the Sunrise. When I walk in I ALWAYS feel welcome. Regardless of who I’m with we are made to feel special. A warm hello, sometimes a hug and always a, “Great to see you. Sit wherever you want.”sunrise
In the nearly nine years I’ve lived in Pleasant Hill I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to the Sunrise, nor can I count the number of people I’ve taken there.
I’m also an above average tipper… that is, when I’ve enjoyed the experience and feel like the server has treated me as a valued patron. I don’t say this to impress, but to impress upon you how important a patrons experience is in order for them to WANT to do business with you.
texacoI have a similar experience when I frequent my favorite of two gas stations in town; Texaco. When I pull in for gas there’s always a warm welcome from Linda and everyone one else on staff. I’m never made to feel rushed or that my business isn’t appreciated. vet
It’s the same at Pleasant Hill Animal Hospital. Not only do I feel like our business is appreciated, our critters always get treats and special loving from the entire staff. Shelby, Heather and all the staff and vets welcome us with open arms.
Let’s not forget the local dog groomer, Molly and her crew at Embarkadero Compassionate Grooming. We’ve been taking our dogs there for years and plan to do so for years to groomer
Then there’s the local grocery story, Dari Market. I love stopping in on a regular basis. Again, I ALWAYS get a warm welcome and am made to feel like my business is appreciated. Delaney had her first AfterD1grooming in years by Molly.
The local feed store is another establishment I enjoy spending my time and money at. Randy and his entire staff are “down home” friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful.
Even at the local post office, I feel like a valued customer. Whether it be for a book of stamps, mailing a package or picking out the perfect greeting card, no one is ever to busy to welcome me.
If I didn’t feel appreciated in any one of these establishments, I could easily take my business elsewhere. Not only me, but the many other customers who frequent these places of business.
Not long ago a new Italian restaurant opened up in town. As it happened, myself, my spouse and my mother-in-law were the first patrons in the establishment.
Excited to experience what was billed as a fine dining restaurant, we walked into a less than warm welcome. The staff was so busy getting ready for “customers” they failed to make our visit memorable – in a good way.
Not only did it take several minutes to be seated, when we were the waitress disappeared into the back area for what seemed like an eternity.
The three of us were in a great mood and commented several times how excited we were to be the first customers. Rather than join in on our excitement, we were made to feel like we were in the way.
We placed our order. One item was an appetizer.
We waited and waited and waited for our appetizer to arrive. I was surprised when the appetizer was delivered with the meal. It would have been nice to enjoy the appetizer before the main course.
During the time we ate our meal, we were not asked how things were, nor were our waters refreshed.
Almost finished with our meal, the owner stopped by our table. Rather than spend time with us, it was a quick hello and then back in the kitchen.
Not that she should have spent a great deal of time with her first ever customers, but doing something special would have made us feel exceptional and we likely would have wanted to return.
What could that something special have been? Taking a picture to commemorate the experience would have gone a long way in creating the desire to come back. A complimentary dessert to celebrate their first group of patrons. An envelope with a coupon for complimentary drink with our next meal. A bit of enthusiasm to match our enthusiasm.
When I asked if they were going to do grand opening my question was met with a big sigh, “We haven’t had time to think about that,” was the response the owner gave.
Rather than creating an environment that encouraged us to return, I got a sense the owner and staff were feeling overwhelmed.
Had some thought been put into creating a positive, memorable experience, I know I would have been back many times since then.
Not only have I not returned, I’ve not recommended the restaurant to anyone. Imagine how much business has been lost as a result. Untold amounts not only from me, but from the people I have not recommended the restaurant to.
Here’s the deal; a customer’s first experience with a business lays the foundation for whether or not they will return and how frequently they will return.
It’s amazing how often a business owner will try to get foot traffic for the first time, but fails to realize it actually costs less to get that person to return than continually trying to get more people through their doors. Word of mouth advertising is far more effective (and less expensive) than virtually anything else.
Will I ever return to the restaurant? I may give them a second chance, but it’s not top of my priority list.
If you own a business that relies on foot traffic, what’s the experience you’re creating for those who choose to walk through your doors? Is it one that encourages them to return or one in which they will likely never return?
The choice is often made based on a warm welcome and an expression of appreciation that they chose your business over every other choice they have.
What makes you want to return to an establishment? What determines if you’ll not return? Comments welcomed.