Getting personal while doing business is far more valuable than simply meeting needs. It makes the customer's experience real, fresh and fruitful. You cannot script it. It comes naturally when you are yourself.
My eyes were opened when I curiously stepped into this tiny eco market and discovered the old-school way of shopping. Human to human. It appealed to me as something completely new.
It was so much different than the one I used to have at a wal-martesque hypermarket stuffed with mass-produced goods where interaction happened only at the counter.
Every saturday in my tiny eco market I could get close to real people and products. The products, which are handmade and patiently grown, are also carefully delivered by the producers themselves. No anonymous 3rd parties in the middle.
Experiencing this place made me drop supermarkets, pay 30% more for products and wait impatiently for the eco market Saturdays to come.
The power of this place came from the people delivering goods they believe in. It was in the authenticity of the eco market. But, most importantly, in the relationships I could get while shopping.
The flavor of good service
I remember tasting this eco-market-bought, whole grain, emmer, well-water bread with dried plums and falling in love with it as the weeks of my new shopping habit passed by. It was made at the foot of the mountains. The grain was collected from local fields during summer. The taste of it depended on the weather. And it was brought to me from 90 miles away.
The bread was not only some bread. It had its real story that I discovered as I got along with the owner. Because of the story, the owner and the relation, I got attached to the bread way more than to the one I used to pick up from a chain bakery. (You might wanna read about creating an emotional connection with customers).
As I was falling for the bread, I became friends with Kate, the owner of the business. She would recognize me and greet me by simply saying "The usual?" I would smile, nod and gush over how much I enjoy the bread she makes.
That was the personal service I came back for time and time again. Way more powerful than the one I got from cash register clerks at the end of the line in a supermarket. I knew her name instead of her name tag. She recognized me instead of asking me for a loyalty card. And, most of all, she knew what I liked.
I remember her saying "Oh, I was thinking about you while making this plum one yesterday." There was a real connection. And it was much better than the way they always call my name at Starbucks, right after writing it down on the paper cup. There is nothing truly personal in going by a pre-made script. With Kate it went as naturally as it gets. It was not acted. It happened as a result of our previous interactions. And it was real.
Longing for another loaf
The other day the plum bread was out. I was upset. However, I got this simple, truthful explanation: "I ran out of plums," Kate said. "Would you like to try the plain one,” she then asked. The moment I was offered an alternative, this sad situation turned into an opportunity – me trying out new tastes. You can't get that with a sign on an empty shelf saying: 'Out of stock.'
It has been over a year since I bought my first loaf. I come to the place every Saturday morning and miss it only on holidays.
Now as I reflect on my shopping experience with the eco market, I see that what mattered to me the most, except for meeting my needs, was warmth, affection and friendship. Simple human to human relation.
Photo courtesy of Chris Zielecki
via Creative Commons.