23 October, 2006

Preferred Customer

Just about every morning, I visit the coffee shop just around the corner from Lenovo's R&D campus. I get in around 8am each day, the coffee shop doesn't open until 9am, so that kind of sucks. I'm a "regular" there. They know what I want, so I don't even have to order. Sometimes, I can spot them on the "look out" for me, if I'm not there at my usual time of 9:15am.

The two guys that work there know very little English, but I try to teach them a new word each time I visit. Simple stuff like "cool" & "awesome" ... OK, I throw in some practical words too. They play basketball & they think I do too, because I'm tall. I was brutally honest with them one morning though, and I told them basketball sucks (they had no clue that was a negative comment, because I said it with a smile). I told them I play hockey...the only description in Chinese I could give them was the word for ice. One of these mornings I'll bring my ThinkPad over and show them some NHL action on the SlingBox. I'll try to catch the Sabres (who are 8-0 at the moment).

A cup of "Coffee Americano" runs RMB 19 at this place. That's about $2.40 USD. A bit on the pricey side, especially because it's not a large cup of coffee, they only have one size. But, it's really good coffee. However, last week they started giving me a discount. The first time, it was about RMB 2 (about $.25 USD). Today however, they bumped it to RMB 4 (about $.50 USD). So, I'm now at less than 2 bucks a cup. I think it may be because I am their only customer in the mornings. Also, I think I am their only foreign customer period.

Man, I feel like a VIP today. If I keep teaching them some new words, show them some hockey & pretend to like basketball, I bet I'll get it down to RMB 10 by year's end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mike, Great story.

Accross from my apartment is a chinese take out - the huge pile of uneaten fortune cookies on my counter gives evidence to the fact that I have eaten there alot over the last 3 years. In fact, when I hit the front door, the lady at the counter asks "General tso chicken or Szechaun" ? Being a regular feels good, but no discount for me. It's always, $7.50 ok, 10 min, ok?

Being recognized is one thing, but you've started building a relationship with the coffee shop, and they've begun "relationship marketing". They are providing incentives in terms of the discount to a valued customer.

Consider the terms "transactional" and "relationship" being used to describe customers. Buy 1 cup of coffee and your a transaction. Buy everyday for several months, talk to the owners, and now your a relationship customer. Some business strategies are to lead with low prices, then slowly increase the profit once the relationship is in place - that's the case at my apartment. These coffe shop guys sound like they are doing the opposite - they are trying to retain you and grow the relationship. If you were to compare their practices to that of the company you work for, would you conclude they are the same, or different?