The thing I love — er, loved — about my local Starbucks (the one with the drive-through in Herndon, VA) is they have a big ‘ol table, meant for four, sitting off in a solitary corner. When I get the urge to write, I hop in the gas-guzzling SUV, drive over to the ‘Bucks, and sit down at the big table in the lonely corner. I pull out my beautiful and functional iBook, spread out a few books, some papers, my cell phone (turned off, people who let cell phones ring and/or talk on them inside of a Starbucks and/or restaurant deserve long, hard torture) … and get to work.
I had a nightmare once where I woke up and someone had moved my entire home and office around, and I couldn’t find anything I wanted. It felt alien.
Three weeks ago, I walked into my Starbucks and my nightmare became reality as someone moved my big table away from the lonely corner, replacing it with two little tables that only had enough room for my laptop and nothing else.
Something clearly had to be done.
First, I dropped nice hints. Things like, “gee, what doofus moved my favorite table from my favorite corner?”
A week went by and I was visiting the ‘Bucks less and less, and staying to do work hardly at all.
More drastic measures were needed, so I appealed to greed.
“Ya know, when I stayed here to work, when I had my table free to spread out on in my lonely corner, I spent $10-12 a day here. Now, I only spend a few dollars. Are you noticing your tips getting any lighter?”
Another week past and … nothing. I finally resorted to guilting one of the baristas. Every time I walked in I hassled him until he moved things back. Alas, the nightmare has ended.
Now, just in case you think I’ve been rambling just to stretch my fingers, there IS a lesson here. It’s this:
“Many small businesses have no idea what the ‘little things’ are that keep their customers coming back. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, those ‘little things’ are changed or taken away. This CAN be a good thing, where the customers you gain more than make up for ones you lose. But you’d better KNOW, which means you need to pay attention. And you need to ask your customers, all the time, what they like, what they don’t like, and how you can make things better.***”
*** One of my favorite questions to have clients ask their customers is: “What would I have to do to make it impossible for you not to brag about [business name] to your friends and colleagues?” (That’s a damned good question, if I do say so myself.)
Anyway … I’m off to Starbucks.