It was 10-15 in the morning. The shops in Kuala Lumpur open at 10am and my hairdresser starts at 10.30am – I think. I’m not quite sure as I always try to get there early so that I can be Abby’s first customer. She normally has a long line of customers wanting her attention, so I try to avoid the queues.

I arrived at the hairdressing studio, expecting to be the first – as usual.

But I wasn’t.

There was someone ready and waiting for Abby. As Homer Simpson would say, “Doh!”

Abby was a few minutes from starting to cut “the first guy’s” hair.

I was sitting in the chair next to him and decided to make some small talk. I leaned over and said, “You are early.”

“I’m always here at 10am when I want to have my hair done by Abby. I want to be the first…”

Okay, I have just learned to modify my time to be at Abby’s at 9.45!

“Have you been a customer for a long time?” I asked.

He went on to say that he had been Abby’s customer for 11 years now. He had followed her as she moved locations 3 times.

I told him that I had been a customer for around 6 years.

By this time, Abby started snipping away at his hair, and I started to ponder.

“Why is Abby so busy?” I thought to myself. “What does she do to create such a loyal and long term fan base?”

Abby does not offer chocolates to her guests. She does not offer discounts to repeat customers. She doesn’t send birthday cards to her customers.

She is not trying to “delight” her customers by “going the extra mile”. Rather, over the 6 years that I have been with Abby, she gives a consistent service – she always offers me a choice of magazines, a cup of Chinese tea, she cuts my hair in the same way (and I’m always happy with this) and she is pleasant.

And, in her quiet way, she makes people feel good. She’s does strike me as being an extrovert, but yet, her quiet, pleasant manner makes people feel good.

That’s it.

This got me thinking about the concept of “customer delight”.

The outcome of delight is pleasure, joy. So, if we were to decode why delight works, it’s because it creates a positive emotion.

Turning now to Abby.

She does not consciously attempt to go the extra mile to delight her customers, but she does create a positive emotion. She makes people feel good while they are in her chair, and she makes them feel good with the result.

People like to feel that they are “coming home” to the familiar. I feel like I am “coming home” every time that I sit in the Abby’s hairdresser’s chair. I appreciate the consistency of the experience.

My conclusion is that to, to build customer loyalty, we need to be consistently good. That’s the “ticket to the game”. And then, the match winner is to make people feel good about dealing with you. Consistently.

So, how do we create loyal customers? First, it depends on the expectations of the customers. The quality of the customer experience is defined by the customer. Had I been George Clooney, I may have had different expectations. Second, it’s about consistently doing a really good job. That’s the ticket to the game. And third, it’s about making customers feel good about dealing with you.

So far, it seems that positive experiences, delivered consistently, build customer trust. And customer trust builds loyalty.

I will explore this in future blog posts.

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