This morning, when I got up to the drive-thru window at a coffee shop I go to pretty regularly, the clerk told me that my coffee had been paid for by the woman in the car ahead of me – she comes in from time to time and likes to pay it forward.

This completely made my day – the kindness from a stranger who didn’t do it for a thank you. It was a small gesture that had a huge impact.

And it kept going throughout the day.

I called in an order to one of my favorite lunch spots, Mosaic. The fact that the restaurant is close and has healthier menu options are a bonus, but I keep going back there for a completely different reason:

As a bit of background, admittedly, my name is hard for people. It just is. And when I’m placing a to-go order over the phone, it gets to be next to impossible. I usually have to repeat my name 2 or 3 times and then spell it 3 or 4 times. Awhile back, to make it easier and save time for everyone involved, I started using the name Amy for this purpose.

In the beginning, Mosaic was no different. One day awhile back, they noticed that the name on my debit card was different than the name I’d given them over the phone.  When they asked, I told them why I use the name Amy – that it wasn’t just them, but all restaurants. Since that day, they’ve made it a point to call me by name every time I walk through the door.

I don’t go there because the food is necessarily that much tastier than anywhere else, and it’s not the least expensive option for lunch. I like the people there. I like that when I walk in, the owner and her team know my name and use it. I like that I’m not just that lady who comes in once a week to pick up a salad, but I’m Andressa, who works close by, has a sweet nephew who just turned 11, and who likes to drink a water with lemon while she waits for her order. I’m a loyal customer to Mosaic, and all it took was making the effort to remember my name.

My point is, I get good vibes going to these places, whether because of other patrons or because of the people who own and work in these establishments, not because of loyalty programs or special offers or discounts. What they give me as a patron is much more than that.

In the hotel industry, we know how important it is to use the guest’s name, and we know people want to be around people like them – or rather, how they like to see themselves. Without going into Maslow’s Hierarchy (that would be boring, and I’m trying to avoid that here), people essentially feel better about themselves when they’re recognized and when they’re around people they aspire to be like.

It’s not as easy as it sounds for hoteliers to do either of these consistently.  It takes skill and effort to keep customer service levels tip top. And it takes skill and effort to make sure you’re bringing in the right type of guest for your property and not just going for the quick and easy way out to hit a budget number (speaking of third parties, I’ll have more on them later).

The properties that can find the right types of guests and make them feel special consistently, though, will reap the biggest rewards. Because that is the best loyalty program going.