How do you know when you have met an angel? Well to be honest, its subtle at first. It’s in the way they smile and how they hold themselves.  A confidence, not in themselves, but in their true desire to touch the lives of those around them one way or another.  The are not always imposing or have large personalities. They may not stick out in a crowd.  But you just know deep down something is different about this given person.

I have been fortunate this year to meet an angel such as this.  Her name is Ashley Ramirez.  She has opened a specialty bake shop in our area. I do not know her full story, but I do know she and her husband are well-educated and haven’t been in the area long.

I knew she was an angel one fateful afternoon when she took a moment at a busy farmers market to step around to the front of her booth, get down on her knees and patiently hand a cupcake to my daughter.  She wasn’t boastful about her product.  There was no self-pride in this moment between her and my child.  Her genuine sweet smile and calm demeanor won my baby over in a nanosecond.  It wasn’t the cupcake.  It was Ashley’s approach. She instinctively knew how much space to give my girl.  Her soothing voice explained to my sweetie that this was made especially so people like her could have it.  It was a magical moment. Sweet girl just held the cupcake for a few minutes because she was too overwhelmed with excitement to eat it.

It seems like being an angel would be enough of a gift.  Am I right? But HOLY COCONUTS can this woman cook a gluten-free vegan cupcake.

Flash back time:

Every once in a while, Sweet Girl’s dietary needs take us in a different direction from the standard.  Being Gluten, Dairy, and egg free can present itself as a challenge.  She is accustomed to telling strangers who offer her candy or food of any kind “no”. She will even ask if she sees something she thinks looks tasty if it’s “Gluten dairy free”.  Not bad for a three-year old.

But this past year she started a preschool program.  And for 12 hours a week I had anxiety over her eating away from home.  Then in the first month, a crime against humanity – A birthday party! Now I am all about knowing life isn’t fair and picking yourself up and being happy anyway.  But try explaining that principle to a 3-year-old that has never seen such a beautiful food as a bakery iced cupcake.

I worked and worked and worked on making beautiful food for my daughter to take to school parties and lunches.  I – no joke – baked 4 days a week to master this skill of baking breads, desserts, sauces, crusts, and puddings.  The culmination of this anxiety struck hardest at her class Christmas program when all the other kids had pretty food and she had mommy’s “ugly” food. She shed her tears in the school hallway.  Mine came later after bedtime.  It sucked.  And I am still rotten at specialty baking. *sigh*

Flash Forward :

I tell you all of that to emphasize one specific point.

You never know in business how you will truly affect those who do business with you.  Ashley did not know she was actively erasing the demons of dietary restrictions with one cupcake.   Business is all about anticipating your clients needs and meeting them on a personal level, sometimes on your knees in a grassy lot.  When you achieve that, not only will you win their trust but also their loyalty.  The old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Our primary job is to be the prevention, a good friend, and a counselor of the customers specific problem/need before it becomes an issue. Your secondary job is to be the cure.  Whether you sell televisions or baked goods, all service boils down to the care we take to meet the needs of our clients.

By the end of Sweet Girls first preschool year, she was able to celebrate her birthday with her classmates. Lunches that included the previously impossible sandwich. Beautiful food she was proud of.  She even had a Merida birthday party with blue wisp cupcakes.

This next school year will be different, I have backup.  Her name is Ashley. She is more than a small business owner or baker.  She is a provider of the good life, a mystic conqueror of the convection oven, and a friend that brings comfort to sometimes uncomfortable situations.

And for me and my family she is Christmas, Disney World, and beautiful cupcakes all rolled into one. Plus she delivers!

How do you know if you are meeting your customers needs?

Most of the time you can tell by your bottom line. If you are not receiving enough customer volume, that is a big indicator the need you are supplying may not be the right one for your business.

But for those of you who are “in the Black” ask yourself or your team these questions:

1. Are you conducting business with a servant’s heart?

Superman was beloved for his humility and service.  Villains were portrayed as arrogant and ruthless.  If your customers pictured you as one or the other, which one would they identify with you? Customers will only choose a “villain” if there is no competition and have a true need.

2. Are you offering the “prevention” and the “Cure”?

Free consultations, demos, and just face time can help customers know the right information for their situation. The tire shop I use is an hour from my house because  they took the time to give me the information I needed at the time I needed it.  Fifteen minutes of their time will pay off for a lifetime customer.  That is thousands of dollars for just a little extra work.  The did not offer a special product but they did show a commitment to being a great provider for something as run of the mill as tires.

3. In your business, do you need feedback from your customers to make sure you are doing a good job?

A local fast food restaurant has a bell for customers to ring when they have had a good experience eating their.  I have only heard it once.  But I know there have to be many good experiences or they wouldn’t be open still.  Why doesn’t every happy customer ring that bell. I have a theory. It’s not personal. The only time I heard that bell ring, the staff acknowledged the ring but acted lackluster about the whole thing.  Absolutely no connection, just noise.  In business, learn how to take compliments and criticism.  You won’t get too many opportunities for your customers to open up to you, so take that moment to listen. Even if it’s just a bell.  And show them its valuable.

4.  Are you an expert in your field?

Take the time to know what you are providing.  Be certain to be up to date on all changes that are happening in you area of expertise.  The moment your customers know as much as you, the value is gone for them.

Customers don’t need to look at providers adversarially. What can you do to make a better impression and give better service to your clients?