I'm Buying Your Customer Experience, Not Your Product

Whatever you sell, your customers crave empathy above all else and will tell their friends where they get it.
Guest Writer

I ambled in at 9:59 p.m. -- one minute before closing. The manager stood sentinel at the door, surveying the mini-mall parking lot for drifters like me. I had just driven 10 miles through flashing lightning and flash-flood rain to get a juicy burger. A guy’s gotta eat.

“I can find somewhere else if it’s inconvenient,” I proffered, even though everything else was closed. The formidable-sized man was agitated at first glance, but then his mien softened into a look of understanding.

“Man, I know what it’s like to be hungry and turned down,'' Marcus the manager replied with feeling. "And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be turned down if I were you.”

Two minutes earlier I was wilted over from hunger, but after Marcus fit himself in my shoes, I was downright sanguine. I wanted to plant a fat Bugs-Bunny kiss right on his whiskered face.

Related: How Billion-Dollar Companies Think Differently About Customer Relationships

Marcus welcomed me into Five Guys restaurant. The cashier, who I fully expected to be deflated, followed his manager’s lead and was beaming a smile at me. Bless his heart. They cooked my meal for 10 minutes while I eavesdropped on their kitchen banter:

“I don’t know about you guys,” Marcus said, “But I like getting paid. And we only get paid when we’re working.”

I liked that positivity. And I enjoyed reading about the company’s history in bits of magazine articles and newspaper clippings plastered on the wall as I waited -- made me feel like I was part of something special. 

Marcus the manager wrapped up my burger, stuffed it in a brown paper bag and thanked me graciously as I departed, as if nothing could have made him happier than to delay getting home to his wife and comfy couch just to serve a wretch like me. I thought I was just going out to grab a burger. But Five Guys gave me empathy.

Related: 5 Easy Steps To Create Customer-Empathy Map For Your Business

Even when I'm hungry I'm really craving empathy.

Having been in the restaurant industry and knowing the apoplexy triggered by a closing-time straggler, I was jaw-dropped by the alacrity of this Five Guys staff. I hadn’t even heard of the place until today and now I’m a lifelong customer. Not only was the burger exactly what I had been daydreaming of -- juicy, melty, umami -- it was delivered with humanity and empathy. That filled my spirit alongside my stomach.

And now I’m realizing...

I don’t care what I get from whichever store I go to or company I buy from. I just want empathy. I want to be understood. I want to be cared for because I’m human. If I can find that empathy in your establishment, in the delivery of your quality product or service, you will have found a lifelong customer in me no matter whether you sell burgers or chairs or ceiling fans or bull penis canes (which do exist, by the way). I don’t really need any more stuff but I’m always hungry for an experience.

When your experience is laced with empathy and care -- these core needs of humanity which I just happened to find at a random Five Guys -- I am one happy customer. I don’t care if your competitor's product costs half as much -- if your experience warms my heart and lifts my spirits, I’m coming back, and I’m telling my friends.

Related: Keeping the Human Element in Digital Customer Experience

Speaking of which, I’m heading to Five Guys tomorrow to eat my favorite new burger -- and to give Marcus the manager and Nathan the cashier a big-ass tip.

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