One of my favorite Halloween memories was decorating the annual giant pumpkin with my son when he was young. As a toddler, he was primarily an observer as he watched me sculpt the face of the pumpkin with a scrimp knife. However, his commitment to the pumpkin-carving process ramped up dramatically as he got old enough to weld the knife himself. He got to use “the knife” (with close supervision) long before his grandmother thought it was “being responsible.” 

Customers care when they share. Their participation elevates their allegiance when they are invited and encouraged to put skin in the game. But when a service provider goes one more step and adds a bit of risk to that inclusion (“the knife”), their allegiance soars to devotion. This is by no means an invitation to cast safety to the wind or to act irresponsibly. But it is a recommendation to walk with your customer on the wild side. It signals how much you care; it communicates how much you want a valued partnership, not just a typical relationship.

Patrons of an upscale restaurant are typically flattered when the chef visits their table.  Bern’s Steakhouse, a 60+-year-old renowned fine restaurant in Tampa, goes beyond the tableside visit. They invite guests to a tour of the kitchen and their half-million bottle wine cellar during or after their meal. It is like a car dealership’s service department allowing you to go behind the “Employees Only” sign to look at a malady under the hood of your car instead of just telling you about it. My devotion to my dry cleaners went up when Scott could not locate one of my shirts and invited me to the back of the house to help him find it. 

Most customers want to partner. Granted, a few only want a “drive-by transaction” with minimal emotional investment. But a true partnership is not just a considerate collaboration. Partners share secrets and risks. They stand by each other through good times and bad. Their fidelity is anchored in confidence bolstered by sincere trust. So, give your customers “the knife” and watch their loyalty grow, right along with your bottom line.