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Delighted Customers: Lessons from Lisbon

July 30th, 2013

Out on the Atlantic edge of Europe, Lisbon may not be a top-of-mind capital in the European Union or a place most people associate with peak customer experience. A recent business trip to Lisbon changed my mind, and gave me more than souvenirs to take home.

I saw and experienced the surprise, delight and loyalty that comes from keeping the customer experience a priority. Here are a few examples I’ve shared with my clients.

Welcome Back

Jose is sales director for five retail stores in Lisbon and manages his company’s network of wholesalers. We did product demos together during my meetings with his company. After finishing a store-based demo, he gave an employee a much-needed break, and I got to watch him in action with a customer.

He turned what might have been a 20-euro minor purchase into a 300-euro sale by giving the customer a shopping experience that ensured repeat business. He did this with sincere interest in the customer and three key statements.

When the customer came in, Jose greeted him with a big smile. “Welcome,” he said. “I’ve seen you here before, and I appreciate your business – welcome back.” Surprised, delighted and now engaged, the customer beamed. Jose continued, “What brings you back today?” 

After this initial conversation, Jose gave the customer time to look around. When the customer picked out a small item, Jose reengaged. “I see you’ve made a selection, and I’d like to know your opinion.  May I ask you a few questions?”  

The lesson from Lisbon: Find meaningful ways to enjoy your customer interactions, and use them to create a peak experience for your customer.   

Above and Beyond

I rang the doorbell on the B&B’s tiled façade, and within two minutes, I was sitting on the patio with a strong coffee and a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice. Juan, the manager of the B&B, was a Portuguese-speaking South African student who loved his adopted city and loved telling visitors about it.  Every morning and evening, he intentionally connected with each guest, paying focused attention when he spoke with them. Each interaction was like a conversation with a friend, in the home of a friend.

I regretfully moved to a new hotel halfway through my trip to Lisbon, and it felt as though I was leaving family. The day after my move, the manager of my new hotel knocked on my door. “There’s a Juan on the phone,” he explained.  “He said you left a credit card in the room safe at the B&B. I offered to send a driver to pick it up for you, but he didn’t think that was safe and insisted that he bring it to you personally.”

Twenty minutes later, Juan arrived with my card. I invited him to lunch to thank him, and he hesitated before answering. “It’s my day off,”  he said, “and I know you haven’t seen much of Lisbon. Would you mind if I suggested a restaurant? Along the way, I can show you two of Lisbon’s historic sites.”

Juan and his B&B got a five-star rating from me on three travel websites.

The lesson? Doing the right thing is appreciated. Going a step beyond the right thing is exceptional and memorable.

You Came Back

Near the end of my trip, I had dinner at a small restaurant near my hotel. The personable waitress brought my bill, but her face fell when I placed a credit card on the receipt tray. “I’m sorry,” she said.  “We don’t accept credit cards here.” Images of washing dishes in the kitchen flashed through my mind.  I admitted that I didn’t have enough euros to cover the bill. She thought a moment, then smiled.  “I will cover it from tonight’s tips,” she said. “You can come back tomorrow.”

Tomorrow? You mean, leave without paying? I was stunned.

True to my word (and hers), I returned the next evening with the euros and a generous tip. When the waitress saw me, she looked confused, then amazed, then thrilled. “You came back!” she proclaimed.  Well, yes.  It’s what customers do when you bring out the best in them.

That’s the thing about delighting your customers. They find ways to delight you right back.