Get your customers to form a habit

The New Year is typically the time when we resolve to give something up (looking at the date of the last post I wondered if I had temporarily given up blogging!) but for some businesses it’s time to think about making customers form a habit – with you.

I was struck by this thought recently as I am currently working in an office next to a branch of Pret A Manger. Pret has already been singled out as an example of superior service and I have always been a fan of theirs. However this is the first time for a while that I have had a chance to acquire the Pret habit on a daily basis.

The outlet in question is in a highly competitive environment – most of the big chains are in the area as well as a number of independent cafes – and, in my case, there is an in-house canteen “proudly brewing Starbucks coffee” (as the caption has it).

The kick-start strength of a strong Americano (with some good jazz usually playing in the background) and a breath of fresh air is enough to tempt me out of the office but it’s the service that keeps me going back to Pret rather than anywhere else. It’s not necessarily outstanding or exceptional – after all they are just serving me a cup of coffee so the opportunities are limited – but the staff are warm and friendly every time I go in.

It should be unremarkable – except that it’s hard to obtain a similar experience elsewhere, at least if my experience of Starbucks and Caffe Nero is anything to go by (both are functional at best). So by definition they offer superior service.

And the effect is noticeable – not only am I a regular at my local Pret but when I pass by any other branch I have started to detect an instinctive reaction where I automatically associate Pret with a warm welcome. This is the “emotional connection” that I believe is the hallmark of superior service.

One explanation could be that there is something in their coffee, but a look at their website’s people section provides some pretty broad hints. Small groups of shops managed by passionate leaders, a commitment to training, an ideas scheme and a memorable twice-yearly party are all mentioned. As is the importance of serving customers with a smile.
So a Happy New Year to Pret A Manger – you’re obviously doing the right thing so keep it up!

Footnote: I was originally going to post this before Christmas in which case the title would have been something like (Carried) Away In A (Pret A) Manger – apologies in retrospect, perhaps I’ll give up bad puns for the New Year.

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