I was in an Italian restaurant about a week ago. It was a small place, not flashy at all, you could even say it looked dated. However, this place is very well known throughout the city and has become a real destination.
My expectation was that the food must be wonderful to make so many people speak so well of the place. I was wrong. Don't misunderstand, the food was very good, but that is not what has made the establishment famous. Instead it was the feeling you have when you eat at this place.
When I first walked in, it looked like chaos. It was very loud with servers dashing about and full tables everywhere. As I came in the door I noticed there was no greeting area for a host/hostess to meet customers. Instead I hear a booming voice from across the room yell, "Come in! Come in my friend!" I yelled back that I had a reservation and said my name. He boomed back, "Yeeeessss! Of course!" as he walked over to me. When he reached me he patted me on the shoulder and gestured to an empty table, "Right this way sir."
That is when he had me.
That pat on the shoulder summed up the whole experience. I felt like a member of this man's family that just walked in for Thanksgiving dinner. As the evening went on, I realized that I had no specific server, but each one would check in on me from time to time. If I wanted something, I could ask any of them. They would joke with each customer as if they were long time friends, they would call each person by name if they had heard it mentioned. As I left, each server called out a goodbye of some sort before the door closed behind me. Absolutely, masterfully, wonderfully amazing!
As a business it is always important to provide a quality product at a reasonable price if you want to succeed. However, that will not make you stand out. Every successful business in the world does those two things. If you can find a way to provide an experience to your customers while they buy your product, you will win their loyalty.
Step into your customers' shoes. What do they feel as they purchase your products or services. Do they get the same experience as they would get with your competition? What would they like to feel when doing business with you? How could you create that feeling?
Depending on what type of business you run, the answer may be very different. The restaurant I was at did it through providing a genuinely welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Find the experience your customers want, create it and have business for life.