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  • Warren Leppik

Customer experience is the new black in marketing

It was another amazing Small Business Week in Oakville, Ontario last month thanks to the tireless efforts of the Oakville Chamber of Commerce. This year, the keynote address was given by Daniel Lewis, Founder of T By Daniel Inc., a modern, stylish, award winning tea company based in Brampton, Ontario. He has served tea to Prince Charles himself and now counts the Prince as a client.

Daniel’s energy is contagious and the speech he gave inspired this blog. As I listened to Daniel’s presentation, I realized that his story was a prime example of how customer experience has surpassed almost all other attributes of a product or service when it comes to customers and how they make buying decisions. I have been sharing articles of the importance of great customer experience for some time now in my LinkedIn feed but Daniel’s story is a real, local example.


He told the story of opening his store in Brampton, near the neighbourhood Starbucks. Back and forth people went in front of their store with their Starbucks beverage in hand, not so much as looking in the store. Until one day, their first customer came into their shop and the attention to and amplification of one small detail changed everything. Daniel asked the audience “How many people have had their name spelled wrong on their cup at Starbucks?” A surprising number of hands went up. Well, in what turned into a stroke of genius, before serving their first customer her cup of tea, his wife asked their new customer “what is your lovely name? The customer responded “Harpal”. And his wife proclaimed “You are HOLLYWOOD HARPAL! Because you’re a superstar” She double checked the spelling of her name, wrote it on the cup and the rest is literally history. Harpal was elated “That’s so cute!” she exclaimed and left. But that night, after a rough start and a whopping $8.25 is sales, when they looked on Instagram, there was Harpal, holding up her cup, showing off her name and saying “Hey, I checked out this new local tea shop and they called me HOLLYWOOD HARPAL!” She was happy to show the cup because her name was spelt right. She was happy to share that she got called a superstar. And all the comments underneath were like “Oh my god! Where is this place? That’s so cool!”.


The next day, who walks in? Hollywood Harpal. Because she wanted a new name and she wanted to try something else. And a magical name game started. And everyone who came in afterward, followed Harpal’s lead and showed their cups, happy that their name was spelt correctly. A small detail, just a little bit of effort, but perhaps that’s why they say “the devil is in the details”. From that point on, they changed how they printed their cups so that all their social media handles were located near where they wrote the persons name so people knew who the company was and could follow them. Their social media following exploded. They became the tea company that named you differently.


Daniel believes that if you’re willing to give effort, your customers are going to see that you’re interested. You’re interested in making my day and impacting peoples lives in a positive way. Daniel believes that effort is the best indicator of interest. And if companies are not willing to hone in on these things that take effort, then make that an opportunity and carve out a good, solid business by showing a good amount of effort. Daniel believes that his competition isn’t actually Starbucks, DAVIDsTEA, Teaopia or Tim Hortons, but Disney World. Because, in our day and age, people will travel from all over the world to get something like the Disney experience. The difference between ordinary and EXTRA ordinary is just that little extra. How much did it cost? $1.15 for a Sharpie marker at Dollarama and a little effort. It was just that extra mile they were willing to take for their customers.


Now, Daniel is the first to admit that not everyone has his larger than life personality that, in addition to properly spelt custom names on cups, has him dressing up as a lion at certain events and greeting new customers with a twirl, a curtsy and a first time customer chocolate. But, in Daniels words, “we all have something a little extra”, something tied to what he calls our STAR POWER. It’s the REAL YOU. In a world as noisy and competitive as this one, we have to bring that uniqueness to bear in our businesses to create a brand that people want to engage with and participate in. He believes everyone can do it. Just make someone’s day. Make someone smile. Make someone laugh. What’s your extra that will make someone say “I’m so glad I’m doing business with you rather than your competitors.”


How many real estate agents do you know? Lawyers? Accountants? Financial advisors? Coaches? In your experience, how different is what you need from these professionals? And given what you know of them, with all of them saying something similar, focused on features and benefits, how would you decide which one to use? How many are there of YOU doing what you do? How are you differentiating from the herd you’re competing in?


Daniel wrapped up the session by asking “What are the first two letters in BUSINESS? B, U.” Give some thought to what could become your little extra, your STAR POWER. Its probably not as extravagant as you think. But it will become the difference that sets you apart from the pack and grows your business.

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