I’ve been reading The Thank You Economy, by Gary Vaynerchuck and I can’t help but think about two very different experiences that I’ve had with local businesses here in Kansas City. A few of the stories in the book have been about restaurants, one in particular about a burger joint in Milwaukee. Gary talks about all the great effort they put towards building relationships and caring for their customers, something I didn’t feel the last time I ate at Blanc Burger.
Blanc is a pretty popular place, with two locations in Kansas City and a new location in Omaha. The last time I was there, I was dining with three other people. We ordered, ate and had a good time. Then towards the end of the meal one of the people I was with found something in their burger. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was nothing. We were told it wasn’t anything to be concerned about but it obviously was something you weren’t supposed to find in a burger and to say the very least, it was very unappetizing.
We weren’t paid much attention once this happened (which I still don’t understand). Neither the manager nor the chef came to our table, in fact one of our party went to them to try and figure out what was going on. We were given our checks with a little more than an apology from our waiter (I don’t think the burger was even comped) and we left without making a scene, but with a bad taste in our mouths and no desire to return…that was nearly two year ago.
While reading about AJ Bombers in The Thank You Economy, I couldn’t help but think about how this experience could have been different for Blanc and the four of us dining together that night. What if Blanc had blown us away with caring like the amazing examples in the book. What would have happened if the manager or chef had actually cared about our experience that night. What if they had come to our table, apologized and said, “we hate that this happened and want to try and make it up to you… here is a free burger to take home”, or better yet, “here are four free burgers”, or even “here is a coupon for the four of you to try us out again. We promise we ‘ll do better next time and we want to earn your business and make sure you’re happy.” or something to that effect.
What’s the worst that could have happened if Blanc or any other restaurant took this approach instead of sweeping the incident under the rug? They lose out on roughly $20 for the free burgers. Is that worse than losing our on four customers? Had Blanc taken any of those steps, that night it probably wouldn’t be two year since any of that group had eaten at their restaurant. In all honesty, my food was fine. I might even go so far as to say it was good, but the lack of caring and almost defiant nature of the restaurant has kept that four top from coming back. In the new Thank You Economy, as Gary lays out in his book, taking care of customers is a valuable long term marketing tactic. Building a relationship with customers is key to success
Nearly a year ago I wrote a blog post about a The Roasterie, a local coffee roaster in Kansas City, praising them for their company newsletter. I wrote a whole post on how they did a great job of creating a community and welcoming their customers into the lives of the employees at this company. Then I posted the article. I tweeted the article. I made sure to include their handle so that they saw how appreciative I was. I posted it everywhere I could. Then I waited. and waited.
Nothing happened, which wasn’t a huge surprise, just a little disappointing. I have no allusions to the amount of traffic I can bring a business from this site and I’m not whining because I didn’t get any attention. But I was a customer, a supporter, a raving fan in the waiting…just give me that push to be a life-long-enthusiastic, loyal-customer…but instead nothing happened. I wasn’t expecting an award, or a free bag of coffee or a free drink at their shop. But not even acknowledging the unsolicited praise from a random customer was a little disheartening. All I needed to to be a lifelong customer (and to shun Starbucks for good) would have been a re-tweet or a simple thanks or some small gesture to say, “we appreciate you”. Two seconds to re-tweet, maybe two minutes max if you type in my email address and write a thank you note. Do that and you’ve earned a raving fan for life. That’s the real value of the Thank You Economy.
I’m still a fan of The Roasterie and I still drink their coffee and visit their shop, not much has changed…but I also still go to Starbucks and to Latte Land and to Hattie’s down the street. That’s three other coffee shops that share my coffee budget. The Roasterie could have had a monopoly on my coffee expenses for a very long time but instead, they just get a portion like everyone else.
Embracing the Thank You Economy is not just about trying to win over disgruntled customers or trying to bribe them into liking you. It’s about creating a relationship. It’s about building a tribe full of raving fans who are loyal customers that go out of their way to promote your business for you and who spend their money with you because they love you. People buy from people they like and people buy more from brands that say Thank You.