Can You Name Your ‘Invisible’ Customers?

Would you appreciate a loyal customer who has been returning to your business, year after year, spending more than a total of $2500 with you at around $20 per visit? I’m guessing you would…I certainly would…but it occurred to me today how infrequently this actually happens. How often are customers actually appreciated? We all like to hear thank you. I’m not saying I need to experience a deep-rooted expression of gratitude every time I buy something, particularly at $20 a pop, but in general, isn’t it expected that businesses will at least acknowledge their regular customers? Not necessarily.

Here’s what happened to me recently. I’ve been working out at the same place for about 3 years. It’s small, drawing about 10-15 people per class. On numerous occasions, I’ve taken classes from the business owner and from other teachers, I’ve taken countless sessions. It’s an amazing workout and there are lots of nice, little benefits like homemade green juice, nice changing facilities and interesting products to buy.

One teacher in particular creates an awesome experience every time. For the last two years, she’s called me by my name. When she teaches her class, she is not only descriptive in the benefits of her exercise, but she also explains the long-term benefits of the specific movements/poses. Both of these small efforts make a huge difference in class. It had been a while since I was able to make her time, so when I did, I told her how much I appreciated her teaching style.

Interestingly, when class let out, I noticed the owner was there, so when I shared the compliment with the teacher, I told her I’d also mention it to the owner. As you can imagine, she was very grateful for the compliment as well as the offer to pass it along to her boss.

But listen to this. In truth, while this organization has wonderful qualities, it has historically ‘felt’ exclusionary. I often feel invisible when I’m there. And in speaking with other women, it seems my perception is shared. Most of the time, I ignore it and concentrate on appreciating the workout, but this feeling of being left out always in the back of my mind.

This time, I was feeling energized after my interaction with the teacher and I was excited to share the positive feedback. I was quickly deflated, however, when I first introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Dawn. I’ve been coming here for a couple years, and…” Interrupted.

“I know.”

…to which I thought, “…well, then why haven’t you ever acknowledged me? Why haven’t you mentioned you’ve noticed my frequency, or asked me how the classes are going, or offered additional suggestions for improvement?

And then when I shared my compliment, she flatly said, “Yes, I know she’s a terrific teacher.”

“Oh, ok…well, I just wanted to share it with you because the fact that she remembers my name and…” Interrupted.

“I’m a fan, too,” she quipped.

That was it. It was awkward…and for sharing something positive, too. And you know, what’s sad is that I don’t think this kind of exchange is that uncommon. I felt unimportant (she doesn’t have time to listen to me), undervalued (maybe $2500 is a lot less than most people spend here) and disposable (I wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know).

If you never want to make this mistake, treat your customers as if they were guests in your home. Appreciate their presence, listen and engage in conversation. This is the very core of customer service…minor details, items of convenience and products can’t make up for a lack in this aspect. Get this right FIRST and your loyal customers will refer others, and if there are lost details, they might just get overlooked.