Dear CMO:

When last we talked, we over-analyzed a poor coffee shop employee who fumbled a wonderful opportunity to create a “word-of-mouth-worthy” moment. Ah. These things happen (literally all the time, in every customer facing business, all day long. Not to belabor the point).

What makes it worth revisiting is that my colleague and I were in the same coffee shop a week later and watched it unfold again. This time, however, the plot took a novel turn. Thus, the post.

While debating the finer points of crafting Eigen Value proposals, we noticed our waitress preparing the same tray of cut up muffins and shot glass sized samples of tea. No PA address this time. Out she came, walked over to us, smiled, and offered us free samples. (Is she a reader? Maybe).

“Would you like to try our new (some sort of) berry muffin? How about our (some sort of) chai?”

“Sure, why not. Do you like them? Are they new?” If you’re in a customer facing business, approaching guys like us is a losing proposition. We’ll pepper you with questions and probably make you a little uncomfortable. But in a nice way.

Light chit chat, and off she went. “Too bad,” we agreed. “She almost had us.”

Where was the link back to the counter? Where was the lightly touched approach that would trigger the decision? “These are our new (some sort of) berry muffins [new means exclusive, rare, and unknown by “others” – all good things] – they’re really good [shows a bit of personality, which triggers liking, if not a touch of source similarity given that we’re regulars]… and they’re fresh out of the oven… [sign me up: exclusive, time sensitive, and only over there by the oven. Where the cash register is].”

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Key Take-aways:

> Don’t leave customer interactions to chance. This means you, manager of customer service people, or store operations manager, or head of sales. There’s a world of difference between a touchdown and a fumble. This was a fumble – close, but no points scored.

> Every consumer touch point matters. Each time you face a customer – either B2C or B2B – you either pull them forwards or they drift away. Or you send them rushing to your competitors. With a careful and skillful application of the right social psychology, you close more business. It works. It matters. It always matters.

> Winning is what happens in the last inch. The last connection. The last nuance. The leaving nothing to chance. Finishing well. When you spend more time on the finish and less on the set-up, you win more often.

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She’s not to blame. She’s never been trained to do this. Neither have most people. But think of the difference between handing out free things and creating a connection between acts, time, exclusivity and (some sort of) berry muffins.