Intuition, Free Brownies, and How to WOW Your Customers



In business school they teach you that every problem should be solved in a logical and analytical fashion. All based on hard facts. Fair enough-but behind all successful decisions (in life and in business), there is something greater at play. There is intuition. It’s the urge to do something that may or may not make logical sense at the time. You may not be able to rationalize it and this urge is more than just an impulse, it’s almost a mini-calling of sorts. Here is the story of my mini-calling.Potbelly Dreambar

This afternoon I was strolling down Austin’s famous Guadalupe Street. (For those who have never been to Austin-Guadalupe Street is right by The University of Texas and lined with small boutiques and restaurants). This particular afternoon I had my heart set on having Chipotle for lunch and was making no detours. That is until I spotted a new sandwich store tucked between two other restaurants-PotBelly Sandwiches. Intrigued but still in the mood for Chipotle,  I continued to walk past its door. However, I felt a strong urge (intuition) to turn back around and go inside. So I did-almost reluctantly . As I entered the store, I noticed a menu filled with ice creams and milkshakes. Being the chocolate fanatic that I am, I quickly started scanning it for brownies. The guy at the register asked what I was looking for and if he could help me find it. His tone was not hurried nor annoyed as would be almost expected during lunch hour at one of the busiest places in town. I asked him whether they had brownies and he said they had something very similar-the dream bar. He took one out of  the neatly organized tray by the register and asked me if this was my first time in the store. As I said yes, he handed me the brownie and said it was “on the house.” I walked out of the store a little bewildered. Sure, the brownie probably only cost the store a few dimes, but it was the act that floored me.  Potbelly probably didn’t lack customers due to their location, yet this clerk at the register went out of his way to make sure I would return. Scientifically speaking, there were two  very real persuasion strategies at play here. One, communication research proves that spontaneous gifts (versus expected freebies and discounts) have the strongest effect on the recipient. Two, when you do a favor for someone (like give them a brownie), they feel obligated to give back (in this case, I will be buying lunch there!). If I don’t go back, I will feel guilty because they treated me so well the first time. What a way to catch customers!

The entire incident took a few minutes but it left me with some key lessons-

1) Always listen to your intuition-it may lead to a free brownie

2) The Potbelly Dream Bars are very delicious

3) If you can impress a customer the first time they walk into your door, you have a customer for life.


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