You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

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.

By Dan Dowling

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hero Images | Getty Images

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.

Dan Dowling

Solopreneur, writer, and coach

As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, Dan Dowling writes on personal development. Visit MillennialSuccess.io and learn how to create your own solopreneur success story.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter's College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple's Attention

In 2015, Greg Kerr, now owner of Alchemy Merch, was working as musician when he noticed a lucrative opportunity.

Business News

I Designed My Dream Home For Free With an AI Architect — Here's How It Works

The AI architect, Vitruvius, created three designs in minutes, complete with floor plans and pictures of the inside and outside of the house.

Business News

This Fan-Favorite Masters 2024 Item Is Still $1.50 as Tournament Menu Appears Unscathed by Inflation

The pimento cheese sandwich is a tradition almost as big as the tournament itself.

Business News

Disney World, Disneyland Will Now 'Permanently' Ban Guests Who Tell This Lie to Skip Lines

The company rolled out changes to its Disability Access Services earlier this week.

Science & Technology

These Are the Top 6 AI Threats to Your Business Right Now

The modern workforce is forever changed by artificial intelligence. If you fail to understand that we will all need to learn AI to some degree, you haven't been paying attention.

Business News

Here's One Thing Americans Would Take a Pay Cut For — Besides Remote Work

An Empower survey found a high percentage of respondents would take a pay cut for better retirement benefits and remote work options.