Finish What You Start

Dec 05, 2013
Keith Wood

Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications

I recently returned from the Wood family version of European Vacation. Fortunately, without the Griswold misadventures and that hilarious London loop over the Lambeth Bridge in that yellow Austin Maxi!

Vacations foreign or domestic, at least the ones far from home, make you completely dependent on local restaurants and cafés at meal time. And unless you are an experienced traveler, you really don’t have an effective way of judging good from bad – despite the well intentioned suggestions of that uniformed concierge – until after experiencing the meal, and the service delivered with it.

Or, left to your own methods, selections based on observation. “Oh, this place must be good they are lined up waiting for a table.”

Or, “let’s eat here they have an English menu.” It’s all simply part of the fun being far from home. No prior experience, no cooking and no clean up after the meal!

Hey look, I am certainly not a foodie or travel writer. So, where am I going with this?       europe-street

Let’s do some quick math to find out. We were gone for 9 days. So we had about 25 meals. Some as simple as a late morning croissant and coffee (great coffee!), others a dining adventure in a version of “trust me you are going to like it”! (We didn’t.)

That’s 25 chances to observe how different vendors tried to solve the same problem for the same client. Here is what I observed:

  • Almost universally we were greeted and in only one case did we have to wait for a table. So, they made us feel welcomed and demonstrated how easy it was going to be to do business with them. Good first impression.
  • In the one case where we did have to wait for a table, someone from the wait staff came out to the sidewalk, apologized for the delay, and gave each of us a glass of wine to enjoy while we waited for our table.

A very nice touch; it signaled that they recognized the gap in their service model and that they cared about us as people.

  • Once seated, table service was typically quick. They also quickly identified us as American (is it that obvious?), and offered help with the menu. So, they were skilled and willing to adapt their standard service model to better serve the client and their particular needs.
  • Wow, they were doing great!
  • However, things changed after serving the entrée. The attentive staff disappeared.  What happened?
  •  “Where is that desert menu? (Hey, I am on vacation!)”  So, lost opportunities to build the table’s average order value and the restaurant’s reputation.

Here is what it made me remember:  Good to great customer experience is just that: it’s the sum of experiences from each of the client touch points.  In today’s socialized and commoditized market, it’s simply not good enough to get most of it right. You have to get it all right — from the first tweet, handshake or call, to the last piece of tape on the box.

You simply have to remember to finish what you start.

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