Customer experience is just a fancy way of saying, "be good to the people who shop with you". And as the child of small business owners, I take that stuff really seriously. My parents, who owned a gourmet grocery, wanted people to feel welcomed, encourage them to try new foods, and deliver a different experience than the then-dominant (and "gourmet") Hickory Farms. So in our little store, you could grab a cup of coffee, sit in the cookbook library and even consult with a registered dietician. You were welcomed in and encouraged to hang around.

Automation is great. It dramatically increases the number of touches and can, when executed correctly, deliver a great experience. Carefully trained CSRs also boost experience when we can't/don't want to engage with self-service tech. And even small businesses can now avail themselves of what once seemed like gee-whiz expensive solutions only affordable to the big girls and boys.

That's why I was so struck by the simple email I got from a small business in Asheville, North Carolina. I'd found Throwin Stones on Instagram a while back and have placed a couple of orders. After my last transaction, I got the usual automated confirmation and thank you. Then I got a personal email (above) from shop owner, Nicole James.

No fancy formatting. No stock photos. No promo code to encourage me to buy. Only a genuine message of gratitude.


I was legit touched by the gesture. Already a loyal customer, the acknowledgment and appreciation made me an even bigger fan. Why? Of course we all like being seen. But it was more than that. By taking time to send me a quick note, Nicole showed me that she shares my values around gratitude and recognition. And ultimately, that's what turns loyal customers into brand advocates, active referrers and more frequent shoppers.

Regardless of the type or size of your business, a straightforward, simple thank you is a good deed and good business. Who could you thank this week?

3 more articles on customer experience:

  1. Mini case study: Penzey’s reinforces brand values during the pandemic
  2. Mini case study: Raising the customer service bar
  3. Business etiquette tips