“Grooming” Your Customers

Chimpanzees engage in the tradition of grooming.  It is a social activity that lowers tension and builds bonds among group members.  Mutual grooming involves picking through each other’s hair to remove insects, dirt and seeds.  Some groups of Chimps even have a custom that involves a pair of chimps crossing palms above their heads and grooming each other with their free hands.

Now, please don’t take this too literal.  Could it be that through natural selection Homo sapiens transformed crossed palms into handshakes but lost the grooming feature of social connections?  What if we brought back “grooming” to social interactions?  In some parts of the country visitors bring a gift when visiting someone they have not seen in a while.  That’s grooming.  Have you ever brought a bottle of wine to the host of a dinner party at which you were an invited guest?  That’s grooming.

“Grooming” enriches greetings.  It nurtures early trust as it adds a spirit of generosity to a new encounter.  Waiters at Vincenzo’s Ristorante in Omaha, NE, greet patrons at their tables with a pitcher of “honor wine”—a high-end Chianti.  “Enjoy this if you like,” a waitress told a group of us one evening.  “The first glass is on the house.  We charge by the glass.  At the end of the meal just let me know how many glasses you had and I’ll add it to your bill.”  When we asked the restaurant owner on our way out how many patrons drank the “honor wine” beyond the complimentary glass and accurately reported what they consumed, he smiled and said, “Most do…it’s one of our best features!”  The restaurant has twice been voted “Best of Omaha” by Omaha City Weekly.

How can you “groom” your customers?  Like the chimps, grooming may begin as a single gesture and end with mutual admiration.  Customers will “groom” you back with their return and their advocacy.




About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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