connected-1327191_640At the beginning of this school year, my daughter and I adopted the practice of picking up a doughnut on Friday mornings. It’s a way for us to celebrate her senior year of high school and makes our morning commute discussions just a little more lively. However, I’ve come to look forward to these Friday morning detours for an entirely different reason. I enjoy the feeling I get from the purchase transaction.

You see, my daughter and I are creatures of habit. We each get the same kind of doughnut every Friday. The first time we pulled up to the drive-thru window, a young woman took our order. We paid, she handed us the bag, and we drove away. The same thing happened the next week. The same woman took our same order, we paid and left with our purchase. It happened again a week later and the week after that.

But somewhere around week four or five, there was a shift. Our doughnut lady came to the window, and in her broken English asked “The same?” She repeated our standard order and waited for my confirmation. A new norm was established. We’d pull up, she asked if we wanted the same things, and the rest of the interaction would play out as expected. Until four or five more weeks had passed.

On this particular Friday morning, we pulled up to the window and I looked inside to see our friend finishing up with a customer at the counter. She turned, caught my eye, and immediately grabbed a bag. She picked out the two donuts we always ordered and then came to the window. With a big smile, she handed me the bag and said “Good morning, $4.65 please.”

This is a very busy little shop. I’d estimate a hundred vehicles conduct business through that window every Friday morning. That’s hundreds of different faces and different orders each week. Yet it only took a few weeks for her to recognize the two of us and learn our preferences. No doubt, it makes her job easier. Every second she saves allows her to serve the next customer that much faster. I doubt she realizes how good it makes me feel to be known.

We’re social animals. We all have a need to be known, accepted, and respected. It makes me feel good that this proprietor recognizes me and remembers my order. It communicates that I’ve made an impact, albeit in a small way, on her. And it opens the door to an enhanced relationship. Our interactions have become more than just a series of transactions.

In a recent exercise, employees were asked to focus on remembering and using customer names for a period of three weeks. In response to this challenge, the majority of employees reported improved interactions with the people they interacted with. Some were surprised to find they were remembered. They appreciated the attention and conversations were more pleasant. Customers talked more, sharing information that helped them receive better service.

Think about your own reactions to service providers you encounter. I bet you’re more open and friendly with those who remember and know you. When we’re treated as just a number, or a problem, or a task to be managed, we respond negatively. When a human connection is made though, it changes everything.

My daughter mentioned that as the school year draws to a close, she’s going to miss our regular stops on Friday morning. She wondered if we’ll be missed after graduation. When I suggested that she write a thank you card for our Friday morning friend, Abby jumped at the idea. “Yes,” she said. I think she’d appreciate that because she knows us.” I believe she’s right.