An interesting thing happened to me in the local Starbucks the other day. I reached “Norm” status.
“Norm” status is what I call the point when dealing with a vendor (like a Starbucks, a local restaurant, a local bar, or even a web site) when you walk into the establishment and your order is started before you are asked what you are there for. They know you well enough to give you what you need with no effort on your part.
I coined the name from the TV show Cheers, where Norm would walk into the bar, everyone would yell “Norm!”, and by the time he sat down he had his beer in front of him – and his stool was always open and ready for him.
“Norm” status is the ultimate in customer service. It’s the point in the vendor/customer relationship where the customer feels they are important enough to pay attention to and they don’t have to work to get exactly what they want.
In a conversation with Tom the Architect yesterday talking about good web sites, I realized that one of the reasons I like Amazon.com so much is that I have reached “Norm” status with them. As soon as I log in, they tell me what they recommend. If I need to find something, I can find it in a matter of minutes. I never spend more then ten minutes on Amazon without finding exactly what I need and the status of where my order is with them. I never walk away disappointed or with unmet expectations – and I rarely log out without having placed an order for exactly what I want, and knowing approximately when I’ll get it.
“Norm” status is the ultimate in customer service. It is personalization at its finest and it makes the customer feel important. The more the customer feels important and gets what he wants (or at least knows he can’t get it), the more he or she will return because you’ve treated them well.
After reading Jason Kottke’s My Business Influences I started thinking about the things that I think make businesses great. I came up with three things:
- Values – Running business according to your values rather than making revenue the primary value. This is a lot of what Jason was talking about
- “Norm” status – Making the customer feel wanted and important. Personalization of experience and the customer walking out of your business thinking you “know” them is very important to repeat business
- Integrating into the customers life, rather than making them work to integrate you. – Amazon does this really well. Not only do they become part of my buying life because they treat me well, but because of their service enabled system, I have the ability to reuse their store at the application level. I can integrate them into things like WordPress that I use in every day life. Because they integrate into my every day life so invisibly, I automatically default to using them because they are there – not because I have to think “Gee, maybe I’ll check Amazon”. This integration into my every day life and tools creates opportunity for them to receive referral business from me when I find a book or product I like and want to recommend it to others. This effects their overall revenue numbers.
I believe these three principles are a few of the keys to a businesses success. The core values must be centered around the customer. The customer has to feel important. Finally, you have to be present in their lives without them having to think about it, by integrating into the things they do every day.
These three things should be what goals are built around. Revenue should never be the primary goal of a business, because in my opinion it is a natural side effect, or by-product, of satisfying these three core principles.
Now … if you’ll excuse me, I can use a Venti-triple-shot-skim-no-whip-mocha now.