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Here's to the unsung heroes of the customer experience

I first met Janet at the gas station around the corner from my house.

Nick Hall By Nick Hall

She worked behind the counter of the mini Tim Hortons nestled in the corner between the front cash and the refrigerators. Every morning there was a line that cut through the store, made up of 6 or 7 people of all sorts looking to get their fix.

The first conversation we had was about cars. I was gassing up on my way to work, and paying inside gave me the opportunity to grab a coffee at the same time. From that first experience onwards she always remembered what I ordered and what we spoke of during my last visit, and based on the rapport she seemed to enjoy with just about every other customer, I was not the only one.

The coffee shop was eventually reduced to little more than a corner counter with an assortment of cups and a carafe or two; one of those soulless do-it-yourself models you see popping up everywhere. Janet moved on to a cashier position at the major grocery store a couple of hundred metres away from the gas station. I see her there regularly and often get the chance to watch her masterfully engage the people she serves. It doesn’t matter who it is or what age they are; all but the most hurried or distracted are drawn into conversation while she’s ringing them out and bagging their things.

People like Janet are important contributors to brands and the experiences they strive to provide. In a world swirling with clutter, distraction and a general sense of panic, their innate mastery of human-to-human connectivity inevitably makes the coffee taste better, the line-ups seem shorter and higher prices just a little more bearable; all by naturally making their part of the customer experience more personal and remarkable.