When It’s Time For The Customer To Pay, Make Paying An Experience

Breakfast Republic attaches its checks to a fork with a note that says "fork it over"

In all the talk about customer journey mapping, we don’t spend much time discussing money, yet paying can be an experience too.

Money has historically been considered an awkward topic, whether it involves loaning money to friends, splitting an inheritance, or asking about someone’s salary. As an important aspect of the customer experience, it’s usually ignored.

But what if, like in other areas of experience, we can use the concept of being Witty to make paying an experience?

The Restaurant Check-Paying Experience

Such was the case recently when my girlfriend and I finished an incredible meal at Breakfast Republic in San Diego. The check was delivered with a card that said “Fork it over” – and the check itself was attached to an actual fork.

See how Breakfast Republic turned check-paying into a memorable experience? There was no awkwardness at all. How can you not smile when you read that card and then have to remove the bill from the fork tines?

And if my experience is any indication of a larger trend, the servers at Breakfast Republic must be very happy to work there because I ended up leaving an overly generous tip. That’s what happens when you create an unexpectedly positive experience – it makes customers happy, so they spend more, return more often, and tell their friends.

The Food Truck Paying Experience

A food truck in Boston similarly made me laugh. Among a sea of food trucks brought in to feed the masses at the annual INBOUND conference at which I was speaking, one truck stood out. It was the one with the hand-written sign that read “We accept cash, credit cards, or whiskey.”

Honestly, I can’t remember what kind of food this truck served, but I definitely remember choosing it over all the others.

A food truck sign notes that whiskey is an accepted form of payment

How To Be Witty

Sometimes all it takes is a little creativity to stand out. As a keynote speaker, when I teach companies and audiences about being Witty, I describe it as follows:

  • Being clever (not hysterically funny)
  • Using language to your advantage (like “Fork it over”)
  • Refusing to be boring

If you think that because you’re in a “boring” industry, or because you work for a B2B (business-to-business) company, you can’t be Witty, then you are mistaken.

Related: Get Out Of Your Customer’s Way!

The B2B Invoice Experience

Julie Fitzgerald runs a design agency in Dallas. When it’s time to ask her clients for money, she of course sends an invoice. But two things stand out about Julie’s invoices:

  1. They’re beautifully designed, which is perfectly on-brand for a design firm
  2. The bottom says “THANKS, Y’ALL!” in all caps – a nod to Julie’s personality and presumably her Texan heritage

Why not have a little fun with customers and clients if it doesn’t cost anything except for a little time and creativity? If you can make a human connection with someone by appealing to their sense of humor or whimsy, you can create a long-lasting relationship.

Julie Fitzgerald Design Invoice

A Word Of Caution

Keep in mind that every employee is in the customer experience business, whether or not their job description says so. It is easy to forget that a “behind-the-scenes” employee can make critical decisions that absolutely affect the end customer.

Take, for example, this sign spotted at a fast-casual restaurant in downtown Chicago:

“Cash was king,” the sign begins. “We no longer accept cash, making us speedier, safer, and greener.”

A sign reads "Cash Was King"

Kudos to the marketing or creative agency person who wrote the sign, as it’s both clever and explanatory of the reasoning. And while I’m sure some person in the Finance Department thought they were making a sound business decision – speedier, safer, and greener sure sound like good policies – the switch to only cash effectively blocks any unbanked customer who doesn’t own a credit or debit card from eating at the restaurant.

My guess? Sales were down at this restaurant after the switch, because too many customers no longer felt welcomed. And word gets around when people feel that way.

Show Me The Money! (And Make Paying An Experience)

The money part of business doesn’t have to be awkward. It doesn’t have to be rote, or boring. It can be a fun and exciting part of the customer experience, and actually bring a smile to a customer’s face.

Just don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses.

Image credits: Dan Gingiss, Julie Fitzgerald Design