How to give your customers the pickle

A powerful quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi is on loving your customers.

In a speech in South Africa in 1890, Gandhi, who owned a law practice, said: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

These wise words said over 120 years ago, still carries such relevance today. I am convinced that living this out today can still be of great value, irrespective if we are employed, self-employed or even seeking employment.

Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. Increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits 25% to 95%. The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60% to 70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5% to 20%

Show your love by the acronym CARE:

Create an experience

When you love someone, you behave selflessly. What are some outrageous ways you can improve the experience for your customers? Here is an example. One customer tweeted that he hoped there would be a porterhouse steak from Morton’s waiting when his plane landed in Newark. Sure enough, when he got off the plane, a Morton’s employee presented him with a complete steak dinner and silverware. Now that is service. Do what you wish other businesses would do for you and pass along some unexpected joy.

At the end of the recent holiday period, I booked a two-night break -away near Pringle Bay. It was just before we left that a massive fire shut down the entire area.

We decided to go away for one night at short notice. We found a boutique hotel in Green Point and the service and experience given by the staff has made us huge fans.

Why? Because they made our experience unforgettable.

Attend immediately

Have you ever stood at a counter waiting to be served, wondering if you might be invisible?

Yes, you have, so you know how it feels to be ignored. Your customers deserve your full and immediate attention.

Be intentional in the way you increase the responsiveness within your business, company, organisation and person.

Respond to their ‘pickle’

Everyone who serves customers in any way wants to provide the best service possible, and most businesses are always on the lookout for the best way to do it.

Good customer service is about more than just being nice; you need a multi-pronged approach to stellar service, and it all begins with the Pickle Principle.

“Pickles” are those special or extra things you do to make people happy. Bob Farrell, founder of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant, tells the story that coined the “pickle” phrase and led to the bestselling customer service training video, “Give ‘Em the Pickle.”

Years ago, Farrell received a letter from a loyal, but disappointed customer stating that he loved the restaurant, loved their hamburgers, their ice cream, and especially their pickles.

He said he always asked for an extra pickle when he ordered, and he always received one. But when he’d visited the restaurant that day, he had asked for an extra pickle and had been told he would be charged $.75 for an extra side of pickles. He was very disappointed and said he wouldn’t be coming back, if that’s the way Mr Farrell was going to run his store.

The experience was an eye-opener for Farrell, who didn’t know where the waitress had gotten the idea to charge for an extra pickle. Farrell bent over backwards to apologise to this customer. And, following this incident, he made the “war cry” for his business, “Give ‘em the pickle!” In other words, take care of the customer – keep them satisfied by giving them that little extra something that keeps them coming back.

Engage your whole team

A business consultant was training more than 3 000 employees of a mid-western grocery chain to approach their jobs with a goal of creating a memory for their customers. She stated that “this is what will distinguish your store from all others.”

Johnny was a 19-year-old bag boy that had Down syndrome. His first response to the consultant’s suggestion was “I’m just a bag boy”.

Nevertheless, he went home and shared what the consultant said with his mother. They began to ponder the consultant’s words about how he could create a memory for his customers.

Johnny had a habit of collecting inspirational thoughts that he would often read. He decided he would begin printing these sayings and place one in each of the bags of his customers. When customers came through the line, he would place the sayings in their bag and say, “I’ve included some of my favourite sayings in your bag in hopes it will encourage you today. Thanks for shopping with us.”

After just a few weeks, an amazing thing began to happen. One day the store manager noticed that all the customers were lined up at only one cashier station when there were other stations open. He began to panic, thinking the other stations were broken. After further investigation he found this was not the case.

Actually, customers wanted to come through Johnny’s line in order to get his saying of the day.

One woman came up to the manager and said, “I used to come to the store only once a week, but now I come every day!”

Johnny’s example spread to other departments in the store. The florist began giving a flower to each florist customer. The meat department put Snoopy stickers on each meat order with a special greeting. This one act by a bag boy changed the climate of the store.

Showing love to your customers in this way could mean finding engaged and loyal “ambassadors”.

False Bay College’s Centre for Entrepreneurship’s (CFE) Rapid Incubator (RI) is looking for graduates and young people who have a brilliant idea and/or an existing business that may benefit from incubation.

Call them on 021 201 1215.

Steve Reid is the manager of the CFE at False Bay College.