“See you later Sonia!”

That simple little phrase put a nice smile on my face as I left the establishment. I had stopped in to The Quick Fixx one evening last week to get a quick bite to eat for dinner. While placing my order, I had a pleasant conversation with who I found out was the owner of the restaurant.

As I was waiting for my food, I listened as the owner remembered the names, order preferences, and schedules of the people who came in. There seemed to be quite a few regulars. There’s a reason why.

Not only is the food at The Quick Fixx good and reasonably priced, but the people that I’ve spoken to who work there are genuinely nice, warm, and welcoming. As a result, my experience there is always pleasant. And with this recent experience of the owner doing something as simple as saying my name as I left, I understood why my visits to this restaurant regularly leave a smile on my face. The owner and his team are interested in building a relationship with me as a customer over time.

There are a number of restaurants where you can go in and grab a quick bite to eat, where the employees will call you by name when your order is ready. But they’re doing that after someone just asked you what your name was a few minutes earlier when you placed the order. While the sentiment is nice, it doesn’t have the same impact as when someone asks or says your name out of a sense of familiarity, or for the purpose of building a relationship rather than for the mere sake of process. There’s a big difference, and that difference is one that is palpable.

One of the keys to delighting your customers and to keep them coming back to you again and again is building a relationship with them. Making the interaction personal by building the relationship helps to build customer loyalty and moves the experience beyond a purely transactional one, to a more meaningful and lasting emotional one over time. Building relationships with your customers can be as simple as learning their name, remembering their likes, dislikes, and other things that are unique to them. It’s in showing them that you value them as people, beyond the sale.

As you work to build these relationships, you have to do it in a way that feels natural to you and genuine to your customer. I’m always skeptical when it feels like a business is “trying” to get to know me in a very “salesy” way. If the motive feels like you’re doing it because you are “supposed to,” customers are able to perceive that and it has the opposite impact that you’re looking for.

I’ll definitely be back to The Quick Fixx. And next time in addition to getting my belly full, I’ll learn the names of the people I interact with. After all, they made the effort to build a relationship with me, so I’m inclined to reciprocate.

The owner said my name. And I liked it. Sometimes its the simple things in life that bring delight.

What do you do to build relationships with your customers?