9 Things Shoe Shiners Know About Business that the Airlines Don’t

shinersI travel a lot. Throughout my career I’ve flown thousands of times to speaking engagements all throughout the country.

After years of walking through the terminals in my hometown airport, CVG, I’ve become loyal to the shoe shiners that work there. Many airlines that I fly have great customer service, but there are still a few things they could learn from your neighborly, friendly shoe shiners.

1) Recognize your repeat customers and know them on a first name basis. When I walk through CVG, the shoe shiners literally shout, “Hey, Curtis! Shine ’em up! Be sweet to your feet!”

2) Understand that your service isn’t just about the service you’re providing. The shoe shiners aren’t just shining your shoes, they’re making you feel good. So often, the airlines shine me on, but the shoe shiners shine me up and energize me for my travels ahead.

3) Ask lots of questions. Everyone likes talking about themselves, and when you show a genuine interest in your customers, they’ll take a genuine interest in your services.

4) Treat your customers like royalty. The shoe shiners will set your bag and jacket neatly to the side, literally put you up on a pedestal, and offer you water and a newspaper. Your comfort is their first priority.

5) Be approachable. The shoe shiners know that if they don’t smile and encourage travelers to come take a seat in their chair, they don’t get paid.

6) Your customers aren’t guaranteed. Shoe shiners know that they eat what they kill, so they make sure that every customer has a luxurious experience that he will want to repeat.

7) Work hard, even if your customer looks cheap. The shoe shiners treat every shoe like it’s a $300 Italian loafer, even if it’s really just a scuffed up rubber-sole from Shoe Carnival.

8) Differentiate your service according to the customer. The shoe shiners customize their message and topic of conversation for the person they’re serving. They don’t do it to be selly either — they do it in a real person-to-person way to make a real connection with the person they’re serving. I’ve heard them speak on the topics of sports, religion, politics, relationships, music, and yes, even the stock market, depending on who’s sitting in their chair.

9) Make sure your customer walks away happy. The shoe shiners don’t let you get out of their chair unless they know you are completely satisfied with their work. But more importantly, they’ve signed your shoes and they’ve had a real conversation with you, so that you walk away not only feeling happy with your shoes, but also with your life and the journey ahead of you.

Visiting the shoe shiners is the cheapest therapy I know of — up there with your wife’s favorite hair stylist. So how are you incorporating other, high-value services into the products or services you’re selling?

Tell me: do you know as much about customer service as my local shoe shiners?

*Image courtesy Tony Alter

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