You walk into your favorite coffee shop – you’ve been here dozens of times before. You order your typical cappuccino, and wait for the barista to ask for your name. You’re not quite sure if they remember you. This is when some baristas will simply ask, “What’s your name?”. Some will soften it a bit and ask, “What name should we use?” – a minor adjustment that avoids the full concession that they don’t recognize you. After all, maybe you have a nickname you sometimes use, or a name you use when ordering where there could be potential conflicts.

But there’s a better alternative. One that draws you in and makes you feel as though they know you, but are simply having a momentary memory lapse…

“Remind me of your name again…”

It’s a subtle difference, but it matters. And it’s a great example of the holistic thinking that produces outstanding customer experiences.

Of course, the ideal situation is that they actually remember you and your name. Bonus points if they pre-empt your order and ask, “Your regular cappuccino to go?”.

But not every barista will remember every regular customer, let alone a customer who’s only visited once or twice before. The interesting question is, how could you make the customer feel like a regular, regardless of how often they buy from you? “Remind me…” phrasing bridges the gap between feeling like a totally anonymous customer and being recognized and known by name. It allows the barista who recognizes the customer, but can’t recall their name, to engage them in a more personal way.

Now, we certainly wouldn’t find it thoughtful or endearing if we knew that the person asking us was a new employee who couldn’t possibly have helped us before. It can’t be used as a trick. But when used appropriately it’s quite a nice enhancement to the experience. Especially in response to such a common and mundane exchange.

The best companies think about customer experience from end-to-end. And they understand that new and repeat customers are different, each deserving of a tailored experience. The hospitality industry has always led the way here. Four Seasons kept index cards (before computers) with guest preferences – from pillow fluffiness, to preferred brands to stock in the mini bar. All in service of making the guest feel more comfortable and taken care of during their next stay.

Where in your business is there opportunity to turn a mundane interaction into something more thoughtful and endearing? Where could you acknowledge your loyal customers more and make them feel recognized?