It’s The Experience That Matters

My husband and I are both foodies; we love to cook and experience food events. Recently, along with another couple, we signed up for an “underground dining experience.” We had attended one of these before with a young chef who was relatively new on the restaurant scene and had a wonderful time. In addition to his culinary skills, this chef was warm and engaging. We felt as though we were guests in his home.

The chef of this more recent event had previously owned a Michelin 2-star restaurant that was in business for 3.5 years. After such a short time, earning two stars (out of a possible three) was impressive. We had not been to the restaurant but had heard and read great things about it, so we were excited to attend what we expected would be an intimate evening.

Sadly, we were disappointed. 

The food was meticulously prepared and tasty, technically correct in every way. But, the experience…. well, it wasn’t an experience. We left saying to each other that this evening was about one thing, the chef making money after the restaurant closed.

Despite emails admonishing us to arrive early (we all did), we were seated 45 minutes after arrival, and then the staff rushed us out so they could prepare for their second seating. The chef did not engage with the guests; the courses were served, he explained the ingredients without flourish, and then went back to the kitchen.

So what, you may be saying, why do I care?

Care is what was missing, and care is precisely what he reminded us is critical to delivering an experience to our customers. Technically correct is simply that, and it is not enough. What we as humans want is engagement. We don’t do business with companies; we do business with people. And it is that human connection that delivers and receives delight.

In short, it’s all about the experience. Without engagement, all we have is a transaction. No matter how technically correct the delivery is, it will never achieve the value one is willing to pay for an authentic experience.

In Your Effort To Please, Are You Giving Away The Store?

Much has been written about The Ritz Carlton Way. The takeaway I always hear is “empower your front line employees to deliver WOW experiences”. Today many other organizations follow this Ritz Carlton Way.

The intent of this approach is to allow employees to resolve a customer situation and have the customer walk away so pleased that they return and tell others about the experience. As with anything else, the best intentions can sometimes go awry. Here are some examples I have observed recently:

  • A customer at Whole Foods asks for product A and they don’t have it, so the employee offers a Try Me (aka free) for Product B. All fine and good; I believe this is the intent of Whole Foods management. But what about the employee that offers a Try Me, simply because they have only 1/2 a pound of the product and the customer wants 1 pound? Should the 1/2 pound be offered as a Try Me?
  • A salesman makes an error in writing up an order for a construction job. The salesman works with the office to ensure the errors are corrected at no charge to the customer. Again, all good. But then that same customer asks for additional changes and the salesman, feeling bad about the earlier mistakes, gives away those additional items at no charge. Is this the Ritz Carlton Way, or is it giving away the store?

It’s a fine line, and of course, judgement is required. I also wonder how many companies that have adopted the Ritz Carlton Way have also adopted the extensive training and monitoring for which Ritz Carlton has become famous. In fact, there is a Ritz Carlton leadership center that offers public courses in delivering what they call memorable customer service.

Even when the design includes training, as with all initiatives, the DIME Method comes into play. We often leave off with Design and Implement and forget to Monitor and Evaluate. With this in mind, I leave you with the question I asked at the beginning,

In their effort to please, are your front line employees giving away the store?


Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain