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Illustration for The value of remarkable customer experiences

The value of remarkable customer experiences

By Ben, 12 Feb 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was out for a friend's birthday, in a bar called The Lexington. It was a Saturday night, so we arrived early so we could order some food before the place got too crowded. After placing our order, 45 minutes passed, and I let it get to a whole hour before I queried the order at the bar. They apologised and said that the kitchen was really busy, and indeed the bar was getting busier by the minute with a few tables placing orders for lots of food.

After about an hour and a half in total since placing the order, I went to the bar, by now intending to cancel the order and ask for a refund. I was promptly told that "due to the unusual circumstances, the kitchen has been closed." That's right, they closed the kitchen, and didn't notify people who had unserved orders. I was refunded, but with barely an apology or any offer of compensation like a free or discounted meal on another occasion. So that's the last time I'll be going back to The Lexington, and I'll be sure to mention this story to anyone who asks about that bar, or for a recommendation for a bar in that area, and tell them to avoid it like the plague.

After leaving The Lexington, by now beyond mere hunger, we stepped into a burrito shop a short walk away called Chilango. The guy who served us looked exhausted (it was only ten minutes before they closed at midnight after what must be one of their peak times for the week), but he greeted us like long lost friends, asked if we'd been before and offered to explain the ordering process when we said it was our first time there. As we ordered he made welcome suggestions about which options would work best with what we'd picked so far, introducing ingredients like they were members of his band, and their origins.

While we were eating, another member of staff asked if we'd mind filling in a feedback card as they were new and wanted to know how they were being received. I gladly obliged, unable to think of anything to criticise, but I suggested that they offer a some varieties of salsa instead of just one (hey it was late, give me a break). When we left, we were thanked by all the staff at once, and the guy who was wiping tables near the door told us to enjoy the rest of our weekend.

Fast forward a week, and I get an email back from someone at Chilango, personally thanking me for my feedback and saying how much it means to them to hear that I enjoyed the atmosphere and the friendliness of their staff. They even said they'd look into finding some other kinds of salsa. As a result of that email and my remarkable experience, I'm writing this blog post which you're now reading, and I'd urge you to go and check them out if you're near one of their locations in the UK (London's Upper Street and Fleet Street, and Sheffield's Meadowhall, at the time of writing).

Do you see the difference there?

If you're in charge of selling a product or service, whether you own it or if you're just the person on the front lines talking to customers, please take a good look at the experience your customers are getting. You might be able to get by offering a mediocre experience if you're hosting live music and serving niche products like The Lexington (they specialise in bourbons and American whiskey), but wouldn't you rather provide an experience that's going to inspire your customers to write blog posts like this one, and tell all their friends about you? Which approach is going to grow you a customer base of fans instead of regular patrons?

If you want to know more about remarkable experiences and why they're so important, you need to read the works of Seth Godin - especially Purple Cow, but really everything he's written, including his blog.

Photo credit: Striatic
Photo of Ben Bodien, who wrote this blog post

Ben Bodien is Principal & Co-Founder at Neutron Creations, where he oversees product design and front-end development. For a somewhat balanced mixture of ranting and raving follow Ben Bodien on twitter.

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