Greetings. My latest birthday was earlier this week, but don't feel bad even if you happened to forget this important occasion. I'll find a way to cope. And, we'll still be friends. In fact, the older I get the less time I spend thinking about my birthday. And when it falls on a weekday I'm likely to spend most of the day at work until an urge strikes me to get up and buy a chocolate malted.
But try as I might, the world won't seem to let me forget my birthday. Because, in addition to family, friends, and some colleagues who love birthdays (and seem to never get older), an awful lot of folks are programmed to remember mine–having created a profile of me in their simple or complex CRM systems as a way to stay in touch and serve me better. They include my friends at El Golfo, one of my favorite local restaurants. My pals at ESPN who own much of my TV watching time. My dentist, optometrist, and hair stylist (not that there are many "style" options for my hair). The kind people at Amtrak who must enjoy my company on frequent trips to New York and obviously remember the insight I shared a while back about riding in the Quiet Car. The team at Modell's who understand my addiction to sports and sports equipment. My favorite hospitality company, airline, office supply chain, and even pharmaceutical company–each of which has a vested interest in my birthdays and longevity. I even receive birthday wishes from the development departments of the two universities I attended and several major nonprofits I have supported…though they have a slightly different take on my mortality. And dozens of colleagues and acquaintances are kind enough to send their birthday greetings through my preferred social networking sites.
And as all of these well wishes arrived, I started thinking about the importance of knowing our customers in ways that allow us to drive greater value to them. The importance of knowing what really matters to them and what they are hoping to accomplish. The importance of knowing the things that make them smile. The importance of knowing what key challenges they face and what opportunities are within their reach. The importance of knowing what they've purchased in the past and what they might be interested in purchasing in the future. The importance of knowing how their world has changed in the 12 months since their last birthday and what those changes might mean for our ability to serve them in new and better ways. The importance of knowing what they would like in a business relationship and how we might create a more ideal customer experience.
Birthdays are a time to reconnect in more than just a superficial way. An opportunity to ask questions, find answers, get to know our customers better, and demonstrate our knowledge in ways that make a real difference.
We win in business and in life when we take the time to care in order to understand what matters most to those we have the privilege to serve. And when we seek to discover the wishes people make as they blow out their birthday candles.