28 Jan When manners are more than free
Recently walking past a coffee shop in Melbourne I saw this sign:
Coffee please $4
The first thing it reminded me of was my mother nagging me as a child of the importance of always saying please when you ask for something. The second, a much more interesting idea, is that of passing on value to customers who adhere to the same principles as you do.
The price is largely irrelevant here. Any seasoned coffee drinker will tell you that the going rate for a decent cup of caffeine is around $4, so the cynic could point out they are not rewarding anyone. But they’d be missing the point. Highlighting the fact that these baristas would prefer friendly, pleasant, well-mannered people in their cafe is the point. Because the expectation is that they are going to be friendly, pleasant and well-mannered in return.
We have read before in this parish the importance of businesses recognising customer lifetime value over short-term acquisition tricks. Here we see this taken a little further with the idea of continuously rewarding customers who adhere to your values and openly penalising those who do not. It is positive exclusivity from the outset. It says, because you are ‘one of us’ you pay less. This is distinct from getting $10 off your grocery shop after spending $1000 because it is not linked to your investment in the business, it is a reward for value alignment.
In the club
Another example I’ve seen before was also the hospitality industry: “That beer costs $7 if you live round here or $10 if you are a tourist. If you come here all year round, you shouldn’t have to pay our bumped up tourist prices”.
By being a member of a special interest group often yields results too. “Oh you are part of the cycling association, oh well, why didn’t you say…?”
Why don’t all businesses think like this? Why don’t we always get rewarded for value alignment and accept that we pay more if we are in some way misaligned? I imagine because it is hard to measure value alignment efficiently without clear signals like the please, the proof of residence or the cycling association card. You can’t just walk into McDonalds shouting “I’m Lovin’ it” and expect a discount, you are more likely to be escorted off the premises!
There is definitely something in the idea of rewarding customers for more than just how much they spend with you. Many brands activate or promote temporarily around their values but few actually live them day in, day out. Giving customer service people the freedom to reward value alignment is a good place to start.