Sunday, April 24, 2011

Some businesses still do not get it – The experience is everything!

Last weekend was a great weekend for our family. We were caught up on our chores and were actually ahead for once.  As a treat for the family on this day we thought a trip out for some pizza and soda sounded nice. So off we went.

Being ones to support our local community we will sometimes look for an establishment that is new to us. We had heard nothing but good reviews about a local pizzeria so we decided to give them a shot. The ambiance was exactly what we would have expected and with the exception of a few open tables the restaurant was full.

As we approached the counter to make our decision we took our place in the line and slowly started our journey towards the order window. Now I am not one who is big on lines, in fact I hate being stuck in a line, but sometimes the prize is worth the wait. Finally our turn came and we make our selection. "We would like a 14” everything pizza, breadsticks and a pitcher of root beer please" we told the order taker.

Her simple reply overshadowed the ambiance, our appetites and any preconception we may have had about the restaurant. “I can only take your food order” she replied. “You will need to order your drinks over there.” She pointed to yet another line of people waiting to place orders (and pay separately) for their favorite beverage. At first we though she was joking with us but we soon learned she wasn’t. Really? I replied, even the Bureau of Motor Vehicles wouldn’t do that (more about that another day.) “That is the way we do things here” came the response.

I know designing the perfect customer experience may be a daunting task at first for the average business owner. Start small. Stick with what you know. If you were the customer how would you want the experience to go? If you get stuck, ask your customers! If you are afraid to ask your customers then hire a customer experience consultant. The money invested for their services will pay dividends for your bottom line. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Building the customer experience a nickel at a time.

When our daughter was a toddler she had a favorite doll that accompanied her everywhere she went. This stuffed friend was made of soft green fabric and was appropriately named Baby G because of her green color.  Baby G was the best friend any child could ask for. She was always ready to play and was there by our daughter’s side each night when it was time for bed. The two were inseparable.

On a visit to a local restaurant we placed our daughter in the high chair which had become part of our daily routine. Baby G took her normal place in the seat next to her. After receiving our drinks my wife and I discussed the never ending to-do list for the day while our daughter chatted away with Baby G. While waiting for our food to arrive our daughter, like kids often do, spilled her milk and began to cry. As we cleaned the mess from the table (fortunately she had finished most of the milk) our waitress came to our table to help clean and to get another drink for our daughter. We were appreciative of the offer and she was off to the kitchen while we tried to comfort our child.

In short time our waitress returned with a new cup of milk for our daughter and had another cup, with lid and straw, in her other hand. With a smile on her face she gave us the cup of milk for our daughter and took the other cup to Baby G. We didn’t notice at first but tape had been placed on the sides of that cup. She carefully placed Baby G’s hands on the tape allowing Baby G to “hold her own” cup. Needless to say our daughter quickly forgot about the drink and our meal was great.

This simple act of thoughtfulness (and five cents worth of supplies) by our customer experience activist disguised as a waitress left a lasting impression on us. We have since frequented that particular restaurant for over 10 years and continue to recommend it to countless friends and relatives. Talk about a return on investment. No amount of paid advertising could generate this level of return.

It is often the little things we do that leave a lasting impression on our customers. A passing smile, a friendly greeting or simply taking the time to answer a question can mean the difference between a one visit customer and a customer for life. As customer experience advocates we understand this concept and look for opportunities to create these wow moments.