My 5-week long adventure to Andalusia, Spain was coming to an end. For those of you that are not familiar with Andalusia, it is also referenced as the Spanish Riviera.  This region’s southern border is the Mediterranean Sea.  Its beautiful beaches are very popular with Europeans. It also has a reputation for its wonderful Spanish foods like tapas (small dishes).  North of the beaches, you can find the rolling hills covered with olive, almond and orange trees and some wonderful vineyards growing grapes for Roja and Sherry.  But it is also rich in medieval culture with moorish fortresses and mosques, ancient cathedrals, noted in the history books as the golden age of the 10th century, one culture with three religions – Islam, Christian and Judaism side by side. But this is just a side note to seduce you to book a flight to visit and enjoy this beautiful area.

But let me get on with my story and why it matters to you as a business person. On my last Sunday with the weather particularly gorgeous, I decided to venture out among the locals and soak up as much of the ambience as I could.   My friend and I travelled by bus to the lovely town of Fuengirola, near Malaga. We walked to an outdoor market in the marina – similar to what we have in the U.S, with stalls selling fruits and vegetables, along with crafts and local wares.

As we strolled from booth to booth, we stopped at one place selling special things made with sea glass and we met Felix. Felix spoke English well which made it so easy for us to have a conversation with him. With great pride, he told us that he collected sea glass from the beaches and turned it into beautiful jewelry.  We enjoyed our chat and of course ended up buying some of his pieces. How could we not want a piece of sea glass that he had gathered to create such exquisite pieces of art.  While talking to him, because he could speak our language so well, we got to know him and his business.  His mother had married an American from Texas so he had been lucky enough to learn English well.  Doing my research later I found their website and Facebook Page.  Very enterprising business.

As we moved away with our packages, my mind started processing our encounter and why he had impressed me so. Our pieces had so much more meaning because of our conversation. We hadn’t just bought the product. The product became richer.  Felix had added something special. It was because we now understood the story behind his lovely jewelry and bookmarks: the sea glass washed up to shore, its long-ago origin unknown.  Then how it became that piece of art. He had made it magical.

Later, that day, we stopped at a food galleria.  Similar to USA style, it was a large hall with food stations along the walls and tables in the middle. However, this was no fast food place. Each stand offered something fresh and delicious to eat based on International cuisine. Adding to its allure was the ability to purchase beers or wines at their own stands.  You got to pick from a large assortment to accompany your International food of choice.  My kind of place.  Here is their facebook page.

After checking out each stand I decided after much deliberation to try pizza.  I wanted to see if pizza made in Spain, would be different than what we eat in the US.  After careful consideration, I ordered a thin crust pizza with truffle with bacon and mozzarella and was not disappointed.  It was delicious. I had an opportunity to chat with the chef.  Her sous chef spoke some English, so I could communicate that I was visiting from the US.  I complimented Chef Laura on how much I loved her pizza.  Both ladies were delightful and I was lucky to be able to have that conversation, because shortly thereafter there was a rush on pizzas so off they ran behind the counter.  As I sipped my wine after finishing my yummy pizza, once again I started thinking about that experience and why it stood out from the other wonderful experiences during my month abroad. Again, I realized it was that “one” special ingredient they offered that made the difference.  Just my applauding the chef and letting her know how much I appreciated her and then her taking time to dialogue and all with an interpreter.  We got to know each other. I left not only enjoying a great pizza but got to know the lady behind it. If I visit Fuengirola again, Pentole di rame run by chef Laura De Cobellis will be top of my list for lunch.

So, what is that “one” thing?  What makes the difference in buying just a product or getting an experience?  I realized from my travels that it’s the extra effort or energy that a business owner gives to his or her customer.  The human factor. The product can be eaten and forgotten, but the experience of meeting that person will last long beyond that day.   Now I recognize its impractical for someone to have that experience every time.  You don’t always have the luxury of time nor does your customer.  But that doesn’t mean there can’t be something else you can offer that will linger in the memory of your customer beyond that moment of purchase.  It’s just a little extra.  For example, it’s getting my hair cut, and my haircutter encourages me to come back at no charge to trim my bangs before my next scheduled haircut. Throwing a free brownie or a bag of chips in my bag if I bought a sandwich or pizza. Or perhaps as easy as offering me a warm smile particularly if I might be having a bad day.   It makes for a very special experience.  An experience that will prompt me to communicate on Facebook or Yelp to let people know how special I was made to feel.  We all want to feel significant and if the business owner can do that you have a winner.

There is a woman I know in Kansas City, Mary Lucas.  She runs a very successful temporary employment agency.  Her Dad ran a successful butcher shop for many years.  Once and a while when she was feeling discouraged at work, her Dad would sit her down in the kitchen and give her some advice, built on his years of serving customers.  One of the lessons he shared was when someone asked for a pound of meat he would always hand over their wrapped meat with a smile and let them know he gave then a couple of extra slices. He called it his “Come-Back Sauce”.  For me it was his “one” thing. Mary remembered that lesson and it has influenced her business every day. After he died, as a tribute to him bestowing those slices of wisdom to her, she decided to pass on his lessons by writing a book.  Meeting Mary over a glass of wine as well as reading her book was very inspirational to me.  I thought I would pass along the Amazon book link in the event you would like to purchase it. Worth the read no matter your business.  Great little bible and valuable for all of us in the customer service business.

Lunchmeat & Life Lessons: Sharing a Butcher’s Wisdom By Mary B. Lucas

Gillian and I have put that same philosophy into our practice, always giving just a little bit extra so our customers will leave feeling they got more than they paid for…and isn’t that the name of the game. So, what is that “one” extra you give your customers or as Mary’s Dad would say, what’s your come-back sauce??

By Janet Elie

Internet Marketing Specialist