Knowing your customers helps you build your business.

I watched my new manager Kim as she greeted each customer walking through the door of Starbucks by name. “Hi Danny! Good morning. I’ll get your tall coffee for here. Did you want a pumpkin or blueberry scone this morning? Hey, Mike, I’ll start your double tall non-fat Caramel Macchiato. Do you need a double tall, 2 pumps sugar free vanilla, nonfat extra foamy latte for Lori this morning too?”

There were at least 20 people in a row, and Kim knew all of their names. She knew what they liked to drink. She knew which pastries they preferred, and what to recommend as a substitute when we ran out of the blueberry scones. She also knew about their jobs, hobbies, partners, kids, and random details about their lives.

My new manager Kim taught me by her example about how important it is to know and connect with your customers.

Without knowing who your customers are, and all about them individually, it is difficult to build authentic connections with them so they can trust you and your brand.

Kim chatted with customers about their lives as she made their drinks, and I was amazed as I watched her my first week training with Starbucks. On my third day of training, I asked her how many customers she knew by name and or their drink. It was over 100. I felt instantly defeated, because I’m not good at remembering people’s names. How could I possibly know that many customers?

She must have seen the expression on my face, because she challenged me to know 10 customers and what they drank by the end of my second week. So, I started by creating word associations. Danny liked drip coffee. Macchiato Mike was a medic. Mocha Mike liked his drink at 190 degrees, because he had a 45 minute drive to his graveyard shift. I knew my first 10 Starbucks customers.

Over the course of the 8.5 years I worked for Starbucks, I connected with thousands of customers, and memorized hundreds of “regulars” drinks. Many of them, like Larry, followed me to different store locations as I was promoted, and opened new stores. My customers became my friends because I knew them. In fact, over half the 200 guests at my wedding reception were my Starbucks customers.

As a solopreneur or micropreneur, you need to know your customers. In a time where authenticity is everything, knowing the details and caring are critical to creating a sustainable brand. Know them by name. Know everything you can about them… even if it doesn’t seem like it’s directly related to your business. It will create a deeper more meaningful connection with them.  Without knowing who your customers are, and all about them individually, it is difficult to build authentic connections with them so they can trust you and your brand…. or have the right products to sell them, or create content that connects with them. Knowing your existing customers can also be the basis of creating your ideal customer persona. 

How many of your customers do you know?

What do you know about them? What have they purchased from you in the past? Take 10 minutes to jot down 10 of your best customers and what you know about them. If you have a client management system or customer service management system like ActiveCampaign, use that. Don’t spare any of the details… even if it seems like it doesn’t matter. For example… Ken is a Scorpio. He has a labradoodle. He also has an ex-wife he despises so much, he won’t even mention her by name. He calls her “that woman”. When I mentioned a Hawaiian vacation, he started ranting about never visiting there again because he went there with her and met the scuba instructor she hooked up with which led to their divorce.PS If you’re in the beginning stages of starting your business, or acquiring a new business, that’s okay. Write down 10 potential customers.

Ummm, Jen… I can’t think of the names of 10 customers off the top of my head. Or, I know them, and they have been supporting me for awhile. It would be super awkward to ask them their name now.

I’ve been there. I have a hard time with names remember? Especially if it’s in person? Do you feel embarrassed if they call you by name? Here’s what I’ve done as a work around when I don’t know a customer’s name or I can’t remember it. Look at their credit card the next time they come in to pay for something. Ask them to follow your business Facebook page, and wait for their picture to pop up. Ask another customer who walks in or a co-worker if they remember the person’s name. If you see them in a public place, discretely ask someone nearby if they know the person’s name. Find out from one of their co-workers if you know where they work. Be vulnerable, and ask them. (This is the one I use most often.)

Tell me, what have you done that’s worked well to get to know and connect with your customers on a personal level better?