To continue my short story of a weekend away in Falmouth I would like to focus on how tiny improvements can have a big impact on overall customer experience.
We had decided several weeks before that we wouldn’t have dinner at the hotel on one of the evenings so looked up TripAdvisor for suitable local restaurants. The Wheel House was number 1 of 165 restaurants in Falmouth. Good enough for us and it specialised in sea food, a particular favourite. Bearing in mind that this was several weeks before, I was surprised that Saturday was fully booked and there was only one table left on Friday. So, 8pm Friday it was.
If you need proof that social media works you don’t have to look further than this example. This restaurant works hard at providing the very best customer experience then relies totally on TripAdvisor to drive customers to them. They have no other forms of advertising and they are busy, very, very busy.
I digress… 8pm on the Friday evening as we pushed through the door into the small restaurant we were confronted with a warm, convivial atmosphere, talking, laughter and the general buzz that a packed room full of happy people make. Before we could really take it all in there was a waitress standing in front of us, “Hello, are you Steve?… your table is over here”. Now, I know we were on time and very few tables remained empty so the possibilities of who I was were limited… but still, I was impressed.
We were shown to a table for two in a window recess. I must point out that if you like fine dining with starched white table cloth and napkins, silver service and impeccably dressed waiting staff do not come here. The Wheel House is more bistro/pub. The waitresses wore jeans, our table was simple pine, no table cloth and the ‘napkins’… a new roll of kitchen paper to every table (which became more and more useful as the evening progressed).
As we sat down two more deviations from a normal restaurant occurred. We were asked “have you been before? No, then let me explain how everything works”. This was genuinely helpful, not a sales gimmick to push a slow moving special. This person wanted us to get the most out of our evening. The other notable thing was during this conversation the waitress crouched down so she was at or slightly below our level. No more straining necks to look up at someone towering over you. And this wasn’t just us, if there was a spare chair nearby they sat briefly to talk to customers otherwise they crouched down… must have played havoc with their thigh muscles.
The evening went well, the food was very fresh, simply cooked and delicious; the staff always friendly, helpful and professional. When the time arrived and they brought our bill it came with an apology “This is the bad bit… but perhaps you would like this liquor on the house to ease the pain” I have experienced this before, admittedly less usual than the two foil covered mints left atop the downturned bill but not unheard of. The difference was engagement and empathy, reinforcing the idea that you had just spent an evening with friends. Compare this with the normal forms of delivery. Cold silence, an unintelligible grunt, mumbled, uncaring “hope you enjoyed your meal”.
Everything I have mentioned above are tiny things, nothing difficult, nothing expensive to implement but combined having a big impact on customer experience.
Saturday morning dawned bright; it was going to be a good day. We went down to breakfast and entered a pleasant well lit room, perhaps a third full with other guests. And there we stood. Waitresses walked past on their way to and from tables, sometimes passing within a few feet. Nothing, no acknowledgment, no “I’ll be with you in a second” nothing… they clearly didn’t think it was their job. About a minute passed (seemed a lot longer) a lady wondered in and showed us to a table, no apology, perhaps oblivious that we had to wait. “Tea or Coffee?” we were asked and having taken our order she wondered off again. She didn’t ask our room number, which we thought surprising. We could have just walked in off the street for our free breakfast. But, perhaps a little more subtle, if she had a check sheet with all the room numbers listed, how difficult would it be to add a note against new guests so she could spend a few seconds explaining the setup rather than just leaving us to figure it out for ourselves?
Unsure of the options we looked around the room to see if we could get a clue from other guests. No, they were all happily munching away on their toast. Then we realised that there was a card tucked, half concealed amid the typical flotsam in the centre of the table; success, a full breakdown of all the things available. Someone at the hotel had the good idea to produce a very nice looking card to explain the breakfast menu; this saved the waitresses time and effort and avoided the repetitive chanting out of options. But, what a difference it would have made if the waitress had taken the card from its hiding place and said “this card explains the breakfast menu, I will be back in a minute to take your order”.
If the breakfast experience had been in isolation it would have been accepted as typical of many hotels up and down the country. As it came so soon after our evening out, comparisons were inevitable. This made me realise that it is the tiny things that make the difference between a great experience and an OK experience.
So, are there tiny things you could change or add to make your business the talked about company of choice?
Here are three suggestions:
• Look at your business from a customer’s viewpoint, walk the customer’s journey. If you are too close and find this difficult ask someone from outside your business to do it for you.
• Take a close look at service based companies doing very well; these need not be in your industry. Look for things that make them special and see if any of these can be adapted for your business.
• Ask your customers to take a short online survey. Try SurveyMonkey, they have a free option that allows you to ask 10 questions to 100 of your customers.
Please comment and let me know what tiny things you can or have implemented.
My next post continues my story and shows the importance of training in a service based industry.