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The mathematics of customer connections

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My wife is a high school mathematics teacher. And, in one of her classes, the students work all year on an extensive data analysis project. These are not some “ask 10 friends which phone they like” research project. The data sets can contain hundreds of elements and the analysis the kids are required to write can be of several pages and full of mathematics formulas and statistical reasoning. It is more than I ever remember doing in high school.

One of this year’s projects caught my attention. This particular student works in a local steakhouse. She wanted to know if putting a small note on the check would gain the server more tips. She asked and received permission from the manager and found three volunteers, all experienced servers. For 10 days, the servers placed a short and personal hand-written note on the bill -- Something to the affect of – Thank you for coming! Suzie and Glad I could serve you this evening! Henry. Then for the following 10 days, there were no notes.

What the student found was when the servers left a note; they received 5% more in tips than when there was no note. Through her research, she discovered a key principal in providing a favorable customer experience – Personal Connections.

Customers like to feel they are special -- like they are our only customers. Think about why you return the same restaurants, or visit the same dry-cleaners. Or, more importantly, think about the places you have NOT returned to. More than likely it was the level of personal connection you received.

Personal connections build familiarity, which strengthens emotional loyalty. When customers feel an emotional bond with companies, they are more likely to do more business them, are more forgiving, and will offer favorable recommendations to friends.

Making the experience personal is more than just providing good service. It is making a personal connection with the customer. It is a well-established fact that companies creating favorable customer experiences are more successful that those that do not. My wife’s student discovered personal connections are important in creating positive experiences. She also discovered that it does not take a lot of effort to make a connection. The simple act of leaving a small personal note was enough to improve the bottom line of the servers at the steakhouse.

Granted, had the service been awful, a small gesture would not have made any difference. But, as the student’s research shows, making connections can improve a customer’s experience and a company’s bottom line. Math is a wonderful thing!

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