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Focusing on Customers: Lessons from Medellin

I admit I was nervous.

Growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, the only association with the city of Medellin or the country of Colombia was hearing about the violence on the news. The violence is what made the news, of course, and it was primarily due to the drug trade.

What didn’t make the news was what Medellin is truly like. It’s a vibrant city full of incredibly warm and wonderful people. And I learned so much by just spending a few days with them.

I had the opportunity to speak at an event there organized by university students, and it seriously exceeded all of my expectations.

The marketing club of Eafit University, located in Medellin, hosts an event each year bringing in speakers from many places in South America and a couple of us from North America. This year, I was the opening speaker discussing how a brand promise sets expectations for customers throughout the journey.

The conference itself was impressive and fun to be a part of, but the student hosts were the ones who really stood out for me. My new friends Catalina and Maria showed me everything good about Medellin and I loved every moment, as my Facebook friends who saw my pictures witnessed!

customer experience education

Medellin micromoments!

Throughout my stay, I spotted a few clever customer experience ideas.

1. Bell for the server – This simple idea is gaining traction in restaurants there. Instead of relying on technology, this simple system provides a bell under a button. To ring for service, just press the button and they will come for you.

2. Battery pack chargers – Apparently this is also taking off in restaurants, but the conference also provided these underneath seats in the auditorium. The charger company provides advertising as part of the revenue model. There are never enough chargers, anywhere, ever. This solves a problem we all have in a portable and sustainable way.

Focusing on Customers

3. Credit cards at restaurants – I think the United States is the last one to jump on this very smart bandwagon of getting the credit card processed at the table instead of a server walking away with the card. I’ve seen this in Europe, too. By bringing the machine to the table, the card never leaves the customer. There is less chance of fraud and everyone feels more comfortable. The server simply scans your card at the table and the slip prints out there.


4. Drivers available – After a law was passed to strictly enforce safer driving by prohibiting drivers from having any alcohol at all, insurance companies began offering services so customers could call for a driver after drinking alcohol. The insurance company sends 2 drivers – one to drive you and your car home, the other to take the driver from there. In some cases, the restaurants and bars themselves offer this as a value-added service. Brilliant!

This reminded me of the discussion Adam Toporek and I had our on podcast, Crack The Customer Code, about the enterprising young man who offered a “line waiting service” for a popular barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas, that didn’t take reservations.

Where there is a need, there is a solution for customers!

I had an amazing time in Medellin, which is rich in wonderful food, gorgeous vistas, and amazingly warm and welcoming people. Thank you to Eafit University for inviting me!

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