The SNEWS View: Sandwich and salad…with a side of thank you

It does mean a lot to customers when you reach out and say thanks for making a purchase…whether it’s for a $1,000 kayak or a $10 sandwich. When the thank you is served as an unexpected side with a meal, the impact was that much greater.
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Down the street from where I work is an independently owned deli sandwich shop that’s been open for close to a year. The storefront was previously part of the Quiznos chain and I remember those workers out on the street handing out coupons trying to solicit business. Then one day, Quiznos locked the door and that was that – apparently, just handing out coupons wasn’t enough to garner customer loyalty. Although the storefront is in the downtown Long Beach area, it is a couple blocks off the beaten path meaning walk-by traffic is infrequent at best.

The man who owns the deli is a friendly guy – always smiling, always amiable. You can tell he takes pride in what he does and is working hard to make his business succeed. He’s got a tasty menu, makes everything fresh to order and keeps the deli clean. His walls are adorned with numerous letters, nicely framed, from satisfied customers describing great experiences and yummy food. He’s catered some local business meetings for free to help drum up business and received complimentary letters for his efforts, which he also displays on the walls.

But a clean, well-run business just isn’t enough to ensure success in this economy. And this owner truly gets that often it takes something out of the ordinary to connect with his customers as I found out one day not that long ago.

I was on deadline and needed a food fix – one where I could get in and out quick. I called over to the deli and put in my order, giving my name and phone number when asked. When I went to pick up my food, the owner was gregarious as usual and even gave me a coupon for my next visit.

Once back at my desk, I enjoyed the sandwich and salad, glad to know I had fresh food to scarf down rather than a greasy burger and fries. About 45 minutes after my visit, my phone rang and I picked up to hear the voice of the deli owner. He asked how my food was, if everything was to my liking and then thanked me for coming in.

I hung up the phone, a little stunned – yes, I had spent probably double what I would pay for a fast-food meal, so I was buying a specialty product, but I never expected a thank-you phone call. It made me feel really appreciated as a customer.

We know of other store owners who have gone the extra mile in the past to say thank you to customers. SNEWS reported in 2007 ("Gratitude drives retail owner to connect with consumers") how Darren Bush of Rutabaga, a specialty paddlesports store in Madison, Wis., personally writes thank-you cards to folks who have purchased items from his store. In the letters, he thanks each person for supporting a family-owned business, and expresses his wish that they enjoy the products they have purchased.

Bush told SNEWS at the time: "I received a letter from a man I wrote a thank you to just the other day, who told me he had never, in many years of shopping in stores and online, ever received a personally written thank you note from the owner of a company, and that the note I sent meant a lot to him."

It is true: It does mean a lot to customers when you reach out and say thanks for making a purchase, being my customer and supporting my business…whether it’s for a $1,000 kayak or a $10 sandwich. Because of my experience, I make an effort to go back to the deli when I need a lunch fix and have received the call of thanks more than once. It’s made me want to be a loyal customer, and I hope others feel the same after getting a rare, but very personal, touch. So, how often do you say thanks to your customers?

--Wendy Geister

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