Mark’s Blog

I’m on holidays

I couldn’t be happier. I’m on holidays and sitting in one of my favourite cafes. And I’m looking forward to relaxing and enjoying a leisurely breakfast.

But what’s this? There’s a sign on the table and it says: “Please order and pay at the counter”. This is new. There used to be table service. Okay, I get it. Things change. So I put my jacket down and head off.

There’s a queue

It’s busy, so I’m not surprised to find a queue. One by one, people are served and I edge closer to the front. A man and a woman, with two children, are now being served – but they’re still deciding what to have and discussing if the special is good value or not. And of course, they have to tell their children, “No, you can’t have ice cream for breakfast.”

If there was still table service, right now I’d be sitting down and watching the world go by. The man serving looks at me and nods – I’d like to think it’s his way of saying he’s sorry for the holdup but who knows.

Eventually

Eventually, the man and woman with the children, make up their minds – they order, pay and leave. Good; now there’s only a woman between me and salvation.

The man serving asks her: “What’s your table number?” Oh dear; the woman doesn’t know. She points and says “That’s it. The one near the table of men.” But it doesn’t help. So she leaves to get the number.

Now it’s my turn. I give my table number, order and pay. I return to my table and sit down to wait for  the leisurely breakfast I came for.

It’s not the people

I admit it. Lining up to order my breakfast is hardly the biggest problem in the world. But even so, it took the shine off the start to my day.

I have no issue with the family who got to the counter without knowing what they wanted. Yes, it would’ve been better if they were more organised but these things happen. And I have no issue with the man taking the orders – he seemed to be doing his best.

It’s the policy

What I have an issue with is the policy. Things used to run very well in the café:

“Good morning. Here’s the menu. Our special today is ……. I’ll come back soon to take your order. Would you like a coffee to start?”

And you’d sit back and relax. And you could easily ask for another cup of coffee, an extra piece of toast, or whatever. Perfect!

It got me thinking

Anyway, the experience got me thinking. When we visit a café – or a car dealer, a hardware store, or wherever – what are the different things that add up to make the experience a good one? And I mean a really good one. I mean an experience which is so good it makes us want to visit the place again or at least want to use their products and services again. And an experience which is so good, we tell other people how good it was and encourage them to use the products or services too.

The 6 essential ingredients

After a bit of deliberation, I’ve come up with what I call ‘The six essential ingredients for delivering a brilliant customer experience’. These are six groups of things which go together to determine how good (or bad) our experience is as a customer. Naturally, different ‘essential ingredients’ will be more important than others on different occasions for different situations but they’re always there in one shape of another. The ‘six essential ingredients’ are:

1. People

Obviously, there are the people with whom we interact. But there are also others – those we can see and those behind the scenes. Our experience is affected by: what they say; what they do; what they look like; the effort they make; the quality of their work; how friendly they are; how quick they are and how attentive they are.

2. Environment

Both the physical environment and the social environment are important. They include things like: temperature; wind; what the place looks like and its layout; furniture and equipment; music and noise; interactions with staff and other customers; safety; and ease of access and getting around.

3. Policies

To run smoothly and give us a great customer experience, places need the right policies, procedures and rules. They need to be useful and relevant, improve efficiency and effectiveness, clearly written, known and understood, and easily followed.

4. Products and services

The products and services need to be of the right quality, at the right price and easy to obtain. We need to be able to understand what the product or service is, what’s included and what we get for our money. And when we get the product or service, we need to get what we ordered.

5. Accessories

Accessories are things which aren’t directly connected to the product or service. They’re extra things like: reward programs; free internet; parking; call-back systems for when we phone but our call can’t be answered; clean toilets; a nice view; a children’s play area; and a free newspaper. We usually know we’ll get them in advance and in many cases are promoted as a drawcard.

6. Bonuses

Bonuses are like Accessories but they usually completely unexpected. Bonuses are things like the bit of extra warm milk I got delivered to my table by a staff member who said: “Excuse me sir. The barista thought you might like some extra milk. If you don’t need it, just leave it.” And the young man from the cafe who came running out in the rain with an umbrella to help me into a cab.

Have you got them covered?

Well there’s really only one question to ask and it’s this: If you’re in the business of delivering a product or service to people, have you got the ‘six essential ingredients’ covered?

And perhaps more importantly, how would you know?

Okay, that’s it from me. All the best to you, your family and your friends.

Mark.

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