+Scott Watson

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Customer Satisfaction Journey - Forget Customer Service

As a birthday gift for my wife I rather stupidly purchased tickets for her and a friend to enjoy a music concert. Well, 'enjoy' might not be the most appropriate term as the event was with Whitney Houston!

So, bearing in mind the health challenges she has experienced in the past, together with pretty awful concert reviews in Australia and 'fans' leaving the concert early as they viewed her performance as below par, I should have guessed that her UK gigs would be at least postponed if not completely cancelled.

24 hours prior to the scheduled concert, it was indeed announced that the concert was cancelled. Apparently, Whitney had a sore throat. No problem, apart from me having to come up with an unscheduled Plan B - how to fill the void left by the cancelled concert.

Aha, a nice meal in a nice restaurant in Leeds. I chose Gaucho, an Argentinian steak house. And, a rather good choice it was too if you look at the experience the company provided for my wife and myself, even before we arrived. Here's how it went.

I call to enquire about a reservation. But rather than delivering the usual 'So that's a table for two at 7.15pm tomorrow', I was on the receiving end of something pretty special. 'Are you visiting to celebrate any special occasion?' was the wonderful question Amy, the rather helpful and exceedingly professional employee asked me. 'Yes, it's my wife's birthday and as Whitney Houston isn't well, bringing her to Gaucho is my Plan B'.

Now, many restaurant staff would finish the call with a standard 'We look forward to seeing you tomorrow', but not Amy. Oh no, she led seamlessly into evolving the customer experience, and quite understandably, generating potential additional income for Gaucho too. And I'm absolutely ok with this if I'm enjoying the experience.

'So may I make a recommendation?' she asked. 'Of course' was my response. She then proceeded to recommend that upon our arrival we should enjoy a birthday cocktail in the bar as a surprise for my wife. She would think up something - after all, it was a pretty safe bet she would satisfy my wife's tastes as she asked me what kinds of drinks my wife enjoys most. Cool or what? 'And how about if you both have a dessert, I can arrange for a small lit candle to be placed in your wife's dessert as a birthday wish.' ABSOLUTELY!

And this is all prior to our visit. On the night, the cocktails did indeed arrive. Gorgeous they were too. And mine was alcohol free as I was driving. Aren't they two words which if you just change their order, the night takes a very different turn? 'Alcohol free' versus 'Free alcohol'!

At our table, the waiter introduced himself, gave us a few minutes to explore the menu and then - with a heavy wooden board in hand, and at least 8 pieces of meat on it, proceeded to explain in brief but fine detail, the different cuts and types of meat, their recommended cooking style and the different textures the meat had. And I thought up til then that meat - was meat!

The food was outstanding, the friendly, professional and subtle service was first-class. The wine that my wife enjoyed was refreshing, as was the small card she was given by Amy as we retreated to the bar for post-dinner drinks. The card contained details of the wine, a description 'acidic, aromatic, with hints of pineapple', the vintage 2008/9, the grape variety and altitude at which the grapes were grown as well as the region.

Now, neither you nor I would likely need or use this information. But, it was a little bonus which helped our evening be even more enjoyable. I never comply with restaurants which include 'for your convenience' at set gratuity, which is usually between 10% and 15% of the total bill value. My thoughts are 'If you've earned it, you're welcome to it'. But so many cafe's and restaurants just don't earn it. They rely on blind compliance from customers to just accept this fee as part of the transaction. Thankfully, there was the option to leave a gratuity either with the waiter who served us so well or on the total bill, which we did.

Have a think, do you focus on delivering customer service - what you think the customers want or indeed, what you want to deliver to customers. Or, do you focus on delivering customer satisfaction - making the whole experience something the customer will enjoy, value and talk about to others? The difference between customer service and customer satisfaction can have a significant impact on bottom line financial performance and your ability to retain existing and attract, new customers to your organisation. Perhaps now is a good time to take a lesson from Gaucho?

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