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July 23, 2010

The Fragile Customer Experience

In this post, Ann talks about the importance of the customer experience …

Ann PadleyYour business may have the best marketing money can buy, but if a customer walks in the door and doesn’t have an amazing experience – you wasted your money. Often businesses make the mistake of thinking that the most important part of the customer experience is appearance. Wrong. It’s the people.

Recently my husband and I set out on our annual anniversary weekend extravaganza. During the course of the weekend we came across two perfect, yet polar opposite, examples of people making all the difference.

Example #1: Soon’s Sushi Café, Kenosha
Soon’s Sushi Café didn’t look like the typical sushi restaurant. Our waitress didn’t wear a kimono and there was no pre-dinner oshibori. ‘This place is either going to be really awesome or, well, the opposite,’ I thought to myself.

Before ordering dinner we met Bob. He was a friendly guy with an obvious passion for his work. He immediately welcomed us to his restaurant and was interested to hear that we were from out of town and first-time customers. He also offered us a couple select samples to tease our palates. (Because I know my foodie friends are dying to know: we sampled the Octopus salad and a sake infusion.)

When our sushi was brought to the table there was a set of little decorative balloons in our sushi. We had mentioned it was our anniversary, Bob was actually listening!

After dinner another surprise was brought to our table: a heart shaped sushi cake.

(It was a perfect heart, this photo was taken after it was cut.)

Not a minute later Soon herself, with Bob at her side, was at our table wishing us a happy Anniversary. It was obvious that this happily married couple, Bob and Soon, were passionate about their business and genuinely cared about their customers.

We loved the food, but it is not what I remember the most. It was our experience that will stay with us forever.

Total bill: $52.00 +tip

Likelihood of becoming a repeat customer: High

Total experience: Awesome. We’ll be back and whenever Kenosha comes up in conversation the name of Soon’s Sushi Café won’t be far behind.

Example #2: Unnamed Resort, Somewhere in Wisconsin
The resort looked great online. With a price tag we typically categorize as a ‘splurge,’ we had high expectations. ‘The service is going to be great,’ I thought to myself, ‘a great treat for us!

Then nothing.

Check in was standard, no different than the night before when we had stayed at a Comfort Inn. We asked about the spa and were directed to the concierge desk, even though the desk was vacant.

Our room was standard, nothing special there. Even though we mentioned our anniversary when making the reservation, not one person acknowledged it.

Total bill: $423.00 (including dinner)

Likelihood of becoming a repeat customer: Low

Total experience: Eh. We ate, we slept, but for $422 I expected at least a smile, a mint on my pillow would have been nice too.

The point I am trying to make is not how much we spent last weekend. It is this: a business can look great on the outside, but is is what’s on the inside – the people – that counts.

Here are some important reminders I took away this weekend:

  • Everyone, from the owner to the front desk staff, can make or break a customer experience. Give them the tools they need to create an amazing customer experience and your customers will become raving fans (like I am for Soon’s Sushi Café).
  • Really listen to your customers. They will tell you how to give them a great experience.
  • Remember, whether you are the business owner or staff, your business is open because of the customers, not in spite of them. Thank them for their business.
  • Creating exceptional customer experiences not only is good for the customer, it can make your job a lot more enjoyable.

– Ann