Recently I was working and traveling in the Lake District of the UK. It’s a gorgeous area in Northern England of rolling hills, farmland with lots of sheep and cows, beautiful lakes, and small towns and villages that have been around for hundreds of years. One of my favorite aspects of travel is that it always provides an opportunity to see with fresh eyes, which I find more difficult to do in my day-to-day life.
The UK, apparently, is not well-known for hospitality and customer service, and I heard this countless times from locals and tourists alike. I also got to experience first-hand, the sense of indifference that many service men and women exemplify.
One of the bright spots that I discovered was a coffee shop/bakery in the Cockermouth area in the borough of Cumbria. The centerpiece of this coffee shop, was not a fireplace, but a map. A huge map covering a wall, and on it were several red dots and a few green dots. While I was sitting there, the owner came by to our group and made conversation.
After a while, someone asked him about the red and green dots. He explained that the red dots were where all of his customers came from. He had a good memory of the different patrons who had visited his cafe over the years and the stories he had heard.
Then he took a deeper look at us and said, “And the green dots, those represent the interesting stories, the ones that really stand out, from interacting with my customers.
He then shared a story about a couple in Zambia who met by a freak chance doing different organizational work in the country and left before they could exchange contact info. But they didn't forget each other. And how a year passed and they saw each other at a cafe in Paris as their respective jobs had them each there at the same time.
We were all enthralled by his stories of his patrons who have visited him, and it highlighted the key ingredient: how our stories become the currency of meaning, hope, heart-break, and the depth and range of our colorful human experience. And he intuitively made this the center-piece of his cafe.
I was left wanting to come back to hear more stories, and even wanting to leave my own on the board. This business owner was serving much more than a cup of coffee. He was serving an experience. He was connecting with his customers, local and abroad, in sharing the oldest tradition on the planet: stories. And because of that, he turned his business from a cafe to an international crossroads in the small town of Cockermouth.
So what are the green dots around you and how are you incorporating these into your business and your company story?