A Foodie’s Loyalty
Since I came to Shanghai, I’ve been having almost the exact same lunch every weekday, much to the amazement of some of my colleagues who think that I should be given a Platinum membership card for my customer loyalty.
First of all, coming from a place like Singapore, I have had the widest array of choices when mealtime arrives and that naturally tuned up my taste buds. Add that to the fact that I’m a diehard foodie who is not shy to admit that in places like Penang and Hong Kong, I’ve proven to somewhat possess the same number of stomachs as a cow by wolfing down 5 meals a day!
After the laughter subsides, I shared with them honestly that once I like a dish and fall in love with a particular food joint that produces it in the best way (in my opinion), I can go back to the same place again and again for years. Longest track record so far: Same “bee hoon” (fried vermicelli) weekend breakfast stall for the past 2 decades. And I even went back to it again when I returned home for Mid-Autumn Festival.
Habits and taste buds aside, I thought it will be fun to draw some parallels between my (undying) loyalty to my favorite food places and how this can relate to building a long-term customer relationship.
Nothing turns me off faster than a place that serves a great plate of Char Kway Teow (fried flat noodles with cockles) one day and turns out a horrid one on another. Best part: Both are done by the same cook. Inconsistency in product/service delivery is the most blatant way of telling customers 2 things: One, the person doing this is not an expert (couldn’t figure out success factors) and two, the person does not taste his/her own cooking! Plus, this could be a side-effect from employee/job disengagement. Customers want to know that they can rely on a good provider without surprises.
I have dropped some places off my food list because of this. Understandably, inflation, rising food cost, rising rental etc. had sliced off profit margins from a lot of businesses. Sometimes, despite violent protests, some food places had to raise prices to maintain quality. However, I bear a grudge against operators who appear to have kept prices low, or the same, but reduced the portion of the food or reduced the amount of ingredient in the dish, hoping that no one will notice. Regular customers do notice
While I do not expect red carpet treatment when I patronize my regular operators, but it’s always nice when they recognize a “regular”. Extra points go to operators who can remember the way I like my meal (complex choices of noodles, amount of chilli, dry or soup etc) just by looking at me. All these executed flawlessly without any complex CRM system. It’s just because the operators care about their customers.
Don’t forget me when you become famous
Some operators succeed in getting their name out to the world, especially in the new world of digital media where citizen journalism is the norm. In some places, the operators were able to stay humble and continue to deliver the same good food to more customers without forgetting the old. However, some operators literally turned into prima-donnas and started to impose amazing stunts to show that they are now “famous” (e.g. becoming curt and starting to forget their old regulars).
Always keep in touch
This is so basic but yet so many people forget about it. A notice when you’ve moved, advance notice if you are going on leave etc. is just showing that you think for your customers too, that you know they will miss you because you are a part of their life.
I sometimes feel that customer relationship management has turned into an over-complicated science, with all the new technology and new ways of communication. Sometimes, looking at how the humble mom-and-pop shops manage this, gives me the inspiration to carry on with just the “human-touch”.