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Connecting with customers on a personal level can create lasting positive impressions for your business

David FullerMy son Caleb and I went to the local Canadian Tire Store one time. Instead of using the regular tills, I went through the garden centre to pay.

I was greeted by a smiling fellow who told me his name was Sam. “I know you from somewhere?” Sam said.

I didn’t say anything.

“Are you a movie star?”

“Perhaps,” I said as my son giggled beside me. “Perhaps we were in a movie together?”

“No, I wasn’t in a movie, but I recognize you from one. Was it a comedy?” Sam asked.

customers business


At this point, I had paid for my purchase and thought I had better leave before I disappointed Sam with the fact that I was just an ordinary customer.

As Caleb and I laughed our way home, I realized that Sam had just made me want to return to the store to have another great experience like that. His ability to connect with me, the customer, created a positive impression that would last a long time and be valuable for the business over time. Sam was genuinely interested in his customers and was a definite asset for that Canadian Tire outlet.

As business owners, we’re often too caught up in our own little worlds to really engage with our customers – to create an experience like Sam created for us. Sam, in his curiosity about me the customer, had made me want to experience more of that business.

In a world filled with technology, texting, email and snapchats, our customers crave real people, that human touch.

In fact, a study from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration found that touching customers on either the shoulder or the hand increased tips by 16 to 41 percent.

If we want customers to love us, we have to show genuine interest in them. We need to teach our staff how to do the same. Twenty-eight years of retail experience taught me that many of my customers, between certain hours of the day, came in just to talk to someone. They were lonely and wanted to have a relationship with someone that day.

When we engage our customers in a way that shows we’re interested in them, in their lives, and who they are, we create value for them that has nothing to do with money.

Of course, there are situations that must be based on the lowest prices. But what would happen in business if we really started to care about our customers? If customers came to know that we cared about them?

My guess is that our competitors would be out of luck.

If I had to choose between going to the local Canadian Tire or a competitor with the same product, even at a lower price, and I thought I could have an experience like the one I had with Sam every time, I would shop nowhere else.

Price wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t even be part of the equation.

As business leaders, we need to remember that despite our busy days, the overwhelming amount of work we have, and the stresses of running a business or managing people, our customers count.

We will outdo our competition by engaging with customers in a meaningful, memorable way that’s fun and interesting. By training our staff and ourselves to be more like Sam – engaging, funny and personable – we come to understand that life becomes more rewarding, personally and financially.

Sam might have laughed as hard as I did at the thought of me being a movie star. Perhaps he was just trying to add some spice to his day.

But regardless, Sam knows how to be successful. He made my shopping experience memorable, and that’s what we’re all searching for – positive memories we can share.

Dave Fuller is a Commercial and Business Realtor, an award-winning business coach, and business author.

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