If your business were a cartoon character, who would it be?

Tradewinds Learning would be Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. Like Sebastian, we’re problem solvers. We help people who need guidance to find their voice. We love the ocean and we’ll even put on a bit of a show if we think it will accomplish our big goal.


But here is why I want you to think about this question, cartoon characters have strong personalities. And your business should, too. What makes your business unique? How is your approach different than your competition? What is the personality of your business? Know it and own it. What makes your business standout is why your customers will choose to do business with you. They come to you for that personality and will return because they of it. The authenticity of your approach is what will build loyalty among your customers. They will return to you time and again because they like the way you offer your service or deliver your product.


Come join the family

I love shopping at small businesses because I get to know the owners and the people who work there. I feel like a true part of their community. I love when they recognize me when I walk in the door. I don’t get that same feeling when I walk into a big box store or a chain restaurant. What I want you to think about is not the greeting, but the goodbye.

What do you say to your customer when they’re leaving? Your goodbye has to be more than that, it also needs to be an invitation to return. Every customer should be invited into the next step of their relationship with your business. Think of a time in your life when you did something or went somewhere because someone invited you to do it. An invitation is a powerful thing. It lets us know we are wanted. You want to let your customers know you want them to come back, you want to continue the relationship with them.



This is the final step in my WINDI customer service framework. The last I is for Invite. It is a call to go beyond just a thank you. Set your business apart by providing this personal touch. Invite the customers to return for another visit. Invite them to join your community online. Let them know you are already looking forward to continuing the relationship. This invitation shows that you are as loyal to them as you hope they will be to you.


Hire your customers

One of the most important decisions you will make in business is deciding who to hire. Your employees are your brand, vision, and mission come to life. You have to hire people who truly believe in what you do and why you do it. If the job is just a paycheck for them, they will not be invested to bring that brand to life. Of course, training your employees successfully is also really important. (And you know I can help with that.) But what you have to do first, is get the right people on the payroll. In the interviewing process you should ask why they want to work for you. The answer has to touch on something specific to you and your business. If they give you a generic answer, that tells you they just want a job, any job.

One of the best places you can look for employees is actually in your customers. Someone who already knows you, knows your brand, and likes what you offer has the potential to be a great employee. This is why I worked in the slide library of the Art History department when I was in college. (Do art history departments even have slides anymore or is everything digital now?)

A little different setting than a small business, but it showcases my point. I had already taken several classes, I had decided to major in Art History and I knew my way around the space. I knew what the job was about and I connected with the department before I even applied for the job. It wouldn’t have made any sense for me to apply for a job in the biology department. I had no connection to that department and knew nothing about what they did.

Hire the person who knows your business and believes in your business. If they are your customer, they will already have a relationship with you. You will know they can connect with other customers and continue to build that loyal customer base. You will build a ripple effect, the happy employee who loves what you do will provide a great experience for the customer, who will in turn love what you do and become a loyal fan of your business.

Establishing a loyal customer base is an important part of your success. I want you to start by answering my first question; who is your cartoon? Leave me a comment below! I can’t wait to read your response.

When I lived in Boston, I frequented one local bar, Cornwall’s. It was just around the corner from my apartment. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and they had one of my favorite beers, Tuckerman Brewing Company Pale Ale. But what really made me come to love Cornwall’s was that after only a few visits, the bartender, Billy, remembered me and my order. Before I even sat down at the bar, he would already have my beer waiting for me. I felt like the most important customer.

I know there were people who had been frequenting Cornwall’s long before me. And there were people who visited more often than me. But Billy still remembered my order. It was honestly one of the places I missed the most when I moved out of the city. Remembering my preference made me feel like royalty and turned me from just a regular customer into a loyal fan of Cornwall’s.

You can do the same thing in your business! You can make your customers feel like royalty and take them from just another visitor to a dedicated customer. All you have to do is personalize their experience. I have four easy techniques you can start trying with the next person who walks in the door.



One, find out their name and use it! Research shows that if you use someone’s name several times in conversation you are more likely to remember it. If your business is a fitness studio or salon, you’ll ask someone’s name when they are checking in. But then, instead of just saying “You’re all set,” personalize the greeting and try something like “Lindsay, you are all checked in for today.” Or “Feel free to take a seat Lindsay, and we’ll be right with you.”


If you are in a retail business, as you are ringing in someone’s purchase, strike up a conversation. Ask them their name and introduce yourself. You can say something like “It’s so nice to meet you Ellen. Is this purchase for yourself or is it a gift?” And when you had them their bag close the visit and use their name again; “Thank you for shopping with us today Ellen! I hope to see you again soon.”


Start making this a habit. You’ll be surprised by how easy it will become to use your customer’s names in the various interactions you have with them. And your customers will notice and feel special and important because you remember who they are.

The second way to personalize the customer experience is by finding out what their interests are. Imagine you were going to become friends with your customer. What things would you want to know about them? This has nothing to do with making a sale, at least not yet. This is just about making your customer to feel welcome and important. Often you can pick up clues based on what they are looking at or what they are wearing. Are they wearing a t-shirt or hat that supports a sports team? Use that as a starting point for your conversation. Did they come in with a dog? My dog, Quincy, has a favorite store in town because it always offers him a dog bone. Make my dog feel special, and you’ve made me feel special! You want to be able to have small talk with your customers in order to discover their interests. Getting to know them in this way shows you have an interest in who they are as a person and that you don’t just seem them as a potential sale.

In addition to their interests, the third way you can personalize the customer experience is by knowing their preferences. This is especially applicable if you are in a business that provides a service like a hair salon, fitness studio, or restaurant. Your customer wants that service provided in a way that makes them happy and meets their needs. Ask them a few questions to understand what they prefer. In a restaurant this is all about the flavors and dishes they prefer. Or in a fitness studio, do they tend to come to a certain class? Ask why they prefer that class. It may be about the time, the instructor, the style of class. Get to know why they make those choices. And if you sell a product, getting to know your customers preferences goes back to small talk again. Finding out the purpose of their shopping. Who are they shopping for? Is it for a particular use? All these questions, no matter your industry, are providing you insight into what makes that customer unique.

Take all these practices, using their name and learning their interests and preferences, and you are going to be able to make an amazing, custom recommendation. And that’s my fourth and final tip. Customers feel important when they believe they are getting something just for them. A personalized recommendation is an excellent way to achieve that feeling. How you deliver this recommendation is what makes the difference between a sales pitch and feeling like royalty. The main subject of a sales pitch is the product. The main subject of a royal recommendation is the customer. Here are a few examples.

Sales pitch: These new notebooks are on sale this week and I think you’d like it.

Royal recommendation: Andrea I know you love to keep track of your upcoming travel plans. How cute are these notebooks? I think the blue floral one is your style! And best part, it’s on sale today.

Sales pitch: We are offering a new class starting next week. I hope you’ll check it out.

Royal recommendation: I know you love afternoon workouts Mark and we are actually offering a new strength training class at 4:00pm. It would fit well into your routine! I hope you will check it out.

Now you know the 4 easy things you can do to turn just an everyday customer interaction into the royal treatment. And it’s so easy! So, with the next customer who walks through your doors, I challenge you to:

learn their name

use their name

find out something they like or a preference

make a custom recommendation

Before you know it, all your customers will be coming back knowing that at your business, they feel like royalty!


Great customer experiences are easy. This is my mantra. But there isn’t one big answer for how to deliver these great experiences. It’s a mix of many little steps over time. Building loyal customers takes time. But if you consistently try these three steps, you will see your visitors turn into regular customers and your regulars turn into raving fans. But first, we need to get one things out of the way, one thing you need to never do.


Don’t insult your customers

You’re probably saying, I would never insult my customers! But I was talking with my girlfriends today and we all had an experience where we felt insulted by the sales person or service provider we were working with. I imagine you’ve had a similar experience, too. You spent weeks researching a product, reading all the reviews and pouring through Pinterest inspirations. You go to the store to finally make your purchase and the sales representative tells you what you’ve picked out is actually not a good choice. What?! But all my research tells me it’s exactly what I need!


First, if it’s not a good choice, why are you selling it? (But that’s a whole different blog post). And two, don’t insult the customer’s choice. I think, honestly, that the response is layered with good intentions. You want what is best for the customer. But the approach is key. Instead of telling your customer not to follow through on their selection, this is your opportunity to ask questions. What is the customer hoping to accomplish? What are the parameters of their purchase (size, price, material, etc.)? Maybe there are additional recommendations you can make that would also suite their needs. But present this in a way that positively acknowledges their opinion and personal choice. If you’re going to build relationships with your customers, you have to come from a place of support.

It’s all in the art of small talk

The places I feel the most welcome and comfortable are those where they know me and my needs. I love when I visit the local wine shop and they greet me with a “nice to see you again.” My dog, Quincy, knows the gift shop we both love because he always gets a treat. Love my dog and you’ve got me for life, too!


I’ve built relationships with these stores. And you need to do the same with your customers. Building relationships is rooted in the art of small talk. Through the short moments of interaction with a customer or client you can build a relationship with them and make them feel welcome. And when a customer feels welcome once, they will come back again.


Ask Their Opinion

Nearly every Thursday night I go for a run with a group of friends. After our run we visit a local pizza shop. They reserve tables for us and we hang out, ruining all the good work we did on the run. But it’s well worth it for the company, the food, and drinks. Every once in awhile the pizza shop is looking to bring in new beers. As a frequent group of customers, we always get to sample the options and share our opinions. Typically whatever we prefer is what goes on the tap next. We love being able to share our opinion and even more so, we love that our opinion matters to the owners.


Talk to your customers and get their opinions. Show them samples of products or ask what time they prefer a class to be held. These days you can do a lot of this online and reach a much wider audience. Your customers come to you because you meet a need they have. Tap into those needs as you look to offer new products or services. This is getting your customer involved in crafting the experience they are looking for. And how cool is it to walk by a store window and see something you selected?

Keep it fresh & clean

Remember that time you made a new friend and when they finally invited you over to their house to visit you were really excited. But then you went to use the bathroom... and oh man! You stopped in your tracks. How can this amazing, friendly, fun person have such a dirty bathroom? Their exterior personality and appearance just did not match with the neglected bathroom.


Your business is kinda the same. The spaces your customers are in every day need to be just as clean and polished as the spaces behind the scenes. Whether it’s dusting shelves, sweeping out dressing rooms, or cleaning the bathroom, have a regular routine for cleaning every where. Even if a customer is never going to see it, it represents your brand. You go into those spaces, your employees go into those spaces. And if their cleanliness and vibe don’t match what you want to portray to your customers, you aren’t really in alignment. Not sure where to start? Download this checklist for the six daily steps you can take to ensure a quality (fresh and clean!) experience for your customers.

We want to provide every customer with an amazing experience every time. With the right tools this can be really easy. If you scrolled to the bottom and just want the bullet points, here ya go (then go back and read the whole blog, it’ll be worth it, I promise)

  • Don’t insult your customers, identify their needs instead

  • Refine the art of small talk to build relationships

  • Ask for their opinion (they have one and they want to share it!)

  • Keep all your spaces, front and back of house, clean and welcoming

Do each of these and you will be well on your way to delivering exceptional customer experiences every time!

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