Ok, maybe ‘customer experience’ sounds a little bit like one of those marketing buzzwords that get tossed around without much meaning.
But customer experiences mean an awful lot for you and your business. They are the holistic perception your customer forms once they have interacted with you and your business.
And an experience, positive or negative, will live on long after the product or service has been consumed.
Why should you be thinking about customer experiences?
Firstly, customer experiences are everywhere these days.
You may have a potential customer interacting with your business half a dozen times before they’ve even walked through the front door of your business. Your website is a customer experience. That last Instagram post? A customer experience. That delay in responding to a voicemail from a phone enquiry? You guessed it, customer experience.
Secondly, you have the ability to control a large amount of what happens.
You are responsible for how you present your business. Of course, there will be mishaps and unexpected things popping up; after spending this long in commercial kitchens around the world, you can take my word for it.
But there is no excuse for not mapping out the entire customer journey and thinking of ways to improve it. Identify bottlenecks and pain points where your customer may experience frustration or confusion; and focus on making this smoother.
What makes a customer experience go from average to astounding?
It’s about understanding your customers. What delights them? What annoys them? Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself “What would I change?”
For the Tocal Homestead team, our customer’s experience is what our business is built around. Of course, a wedding is one of the most memorable and enjoyable days of anyone’s life, so we always tend to the tiny details that will make a big difference.
The general public perception of good food and dining experiences has changed significantly in recent years, and this is especially true in the Hunter region.
One of the things people notice most is how much effort we go to just to make every detail perfect. From the presentation of every single dish that leaves the kitchen, to the selection of wines, to the attentiveness of the waitstaff. The whole package is a live experience: part theatre, part indulgence and it should always be unique, exciting and fun.
Of course, we are blessed with the stunning scenery and world class local produce that make the Hunter such a wonderful wedding venue, but it still takes careful planning to tie it all together.
Top tips for improving customer experience
- There is no greater indicator of a customer’s experience than hearing it straight from them. Monitor any reviews online across places like Facebook, TripAdvisor and Google+. Although some of the criticism on these platforms can be a bit tough to swallow, there is often valuable insight to be gained.
- Ask friends and family to test elements of your customer journey and then ask them to describe their experiences. Is it difficult to find your online enquiry form? Could you after sales servicing be improved? Did they walk away feeling like they deserved more from the experience?
- Never settle for average. Your customers will determine the value they received by sub-consciously subtracting the costs (monetary and non-monetary) from the benefits you have provided them. If offer an average or “close enough” experience, you aren’t leaving much room for customer satisfaction.
Take the time to study the customer experience you are offering. It’s the most lasting legacy your business can provide and I guarantee that it won’t go unnoticed.
Jacque Brown has extensive experience in the hospitality management industry, having worked both at home and abroad in some of the world’s top venues, including Sean’s Panorama and the River Cafe in London with Gordon Ramsey.
She was also the recipient of the Sydney Morning Herald Josephine Pignolet award for Young Chef of the Year in 2005. Jacque and her partner Tom are well known in the local dining scene, especially for their work with Sprout Dining and Catering.