More Than A Cafe

cafe a boardI had a heart warming experience when I went for lunch the other week.  The staff member at the counter greeted me in a cheerful manner and asked me how I was.  I asked for the chicken burger, which was what I normally ordered.  The staff member took the opportunity to let me know that they recently had a new menu.  She commented that she wasn’t sure whether I had visited their outlet since it had been updated.  She told me with enthusiasm how they now had some lovely salads and some new pasta dishes.  Her enthusiasm washed off on me and I felt privileged that she had taken the time to encourage me to try the new ideas.  She also offered me a loyalty card and took the time to explain the various free items that I could earn.  It was great to see someone take such pride in the service that they were offering.  I felt encouraged to return, both to try the new items on the menu and to earn free gifts from my loyalty card!

The Value of Great Service

This week I have visited two different venues in view of holding a conference there.  Both of these venues are owned by the same company.  However they couldn’t have been more different in the welcome that they provided.

fawlty towersOn arrival at the first venue, I told the receptionist my name and who I was there to see.  When the receptionist called the person who I had booked the appointment with, I could tell from his conversation that the staff member was not expecting me.  I had to wait for around five minutes before she arrived to meet me in the reception area.  The worst part of the visit came when the staff member opened the door to the room where the event was to be held and a rat ran all the way across the floor!  I am not a fan of these animals at the best of times and I certainly did not expect to see one inside an upmarket venue.  The staff member then showed me one of their most exclusive bedrooms.  It smelt damp and musty and there was a general feeling of a lack of cleanliness.  I doubt I will be returning.

At the second venue, in contrast, I felt inspired and uplifted by the welcome, hospitality and service that I received. Even prior to my arrival, the Events Co-ordinator called me and let me know they were looking forward to meeting me. She also sent me an email with clear directions to the venue.  Upon arrival, there was not just the Events Co-ordinator, but also the Sales Director, waiting in the reception area to meet me.  They thanked me in a genuine and enthusiastic manner for coming to see them today.  The Sales Director said that meeting people like me was one of her favourite parts of her job. This put me at ease and made me feel welcome.

afternoon tea The staff members told me that they had reserved an area in the bar.  I couldn’t believe the sight when I sat down.  They had prepared a magnificent afternoon tea for me, with ornate crockery and an appetising fresh fruit platter.  I felt as though I was being treated like a queen.  They checked whether my name was spelt as ‘Rachael’ or ‘Rachel’.  This showed the level of attention to detail that they were making to ensure that I would be pleased with the experience that they were offering.  While we were sitting down, a man came up to the table and shook my hand.  He said that he was the Operations Director.  He checked that I was happy with my visit so far.  He gave me his business card and invited me to get in touch at any time.  I felt like a VIP by this point.

quote about being extraordinaryAfter the tea, I was shown through to the room where the event would be held.  The staff had arranged for my logo to be displayed on a projector at the front of the room. There was also a message displayed to welcome me to their venue.  The Sales Director enthused about how excited they were at the prospect of working with my company.  She said that she had been on the estate where my business is located as they have another client there.   She said she had driven past my office and was therefore very excited when she heard that I had made an enquiry.  She asked about other events that we hold throughout the year and told me that it would be great to form a partnership.

The Sales Director named a few of their blue chip clients and this showed the level of service that they offered.  She also told me a bit about the history of the building and also mentioned some TV shows that had been filmed there. The Event Co-ordinator let me know that she would look after me throughout the whole process.  The Sales Director joked that the Event Co-ordinator was always there and didn’t have time off as they couldn’t afford to be without her as she was so valuable to them.  I loved this attitude and it goes to prove that when staff feel important and valued, they will inevitably provide great service.  It was clear that the staff felt very proud of their venue.

It was very apparent how well the staff at the venue worked well as a team.  This created a welcoming and homely atmosphere.  This was evident to me by the following:

  • The Events Co-ordinator who I had originally spoken to on the telephone had told her Sales Director about my enquiry and had arranged for both of them to meet me.
  • The Operations Director had also been told about my visit and had come to meet me.
  • The staff in the corridors smiled and said, “Hello”, as we passed them.
  • Technical staff had arranged for my logo to appear on the screen in the conference room, together with a welcome message.
  • As we passed some other staff in the foyer, the Sales Director said that I could grab any staff member for assistance at any time. This made them stand out from many businesses in which individuals will only be focused on their own tasks and would not think about working as a team to assist their colleagues in other departments.

Throughout the visit, the Sales Director thanked me for my enquiry.  She acknowledged that I had given up my time to visit them today and thanked me for doing so.  She checked whether I was okay for time today, or whether I had any time constraints.  She also showed respect by asking me whether I preferred to be contacted by telephone or by email.  She explained that she understood that it could be difficult to take a telephone call during a busy working day.

customer service quoteThe Sales Director also told me that I could let them know in advance who the VIPs were in my company.  She said that they would arrange for these individuals to get a free upgrade to superior rooms.  She said that they would put wine, fruit, bottles of water and a nice welcome note from the General Manager in these rooms.  These added touches can go a long way.  Another way that the Sales Director made me feel valued was when she mentioned that she had noticed on my website that it was important for our company to be environmentally friendly.  She said, therefore, that they would be happy to provide crockery in place of disposable cups.

Towards the end of the conversation, I mentioned that we may be looking to hold a drinks reception on the evening of the first day of the event.  The Event Co-ordinator took this opportunity to close the sale by telling me that they would be happy to put on a drinks reception free of charge if I confirmed my booking by the following Friday.

thank you quoteBefore I left, the Sales Director made some friendly conversation with me.  She asked me about my hobbies and we found some common ground.  She used my name several times in conversation and said that it was good to get to know me.  On my way out I was handed a nice goody bag contained some chocolates, a notepad and some further information.

thank-you noteUpon leaving the venue I felt inspired and uplifted.  I truly felt as though I could form a partnership with this venue and that they would be dedicated to making sure that I was happy with their service.  It is also worth noting that I received an email straight after my visit thanking me for coming to see them.  I have a follow up email arranged for Tuesday as I said that I will be making my decision by then. It would be hard to choose another venue instead of this one after the warm welcome that I received.  I would be willing to pay more money for great service like this.

Experience Boutique can work with you to help your company achieve brand consistency across all of your locations.  Call us today on 0203 239 2326 or email Rachel at

Energy suppliers = Good service??

logos of energy suppliers UKI must admit I have been quite impressed by SSE Southern Electric. I called them in regards to my tariff. At the end of the call, the lady asked whether there was anything else they could help me with today. She used my name several times in the conversation so this made it feel more personal. She asked if I perhaps wanted any energy saving advice. I mentioned that I didn’t think there was much I could do to save energy since I just had a very old boiler that you could only turn either on or off. She asked me several questions. She then let me know that they have some special offers on boilers at the moment. I hadn’t previously been aware that they offered boilers. The lady told me that they currently had a £400 discount plus two years free cover worth about another £350. I told her that I didn’t need it right now, but it was useful to know for future. I was very impressed that she offered me some energy saving advice, rather than rushing off the telephone to speak with the next customer. This made me think very well of the company and encouraged me to be loyal to them. It also gave the staff member a chance to tell me about other products that they offered.

Before I had a chance to publish this post I spoke to SSE again! Their service seems to get better and better. I wanted to clarify some points on their fixed rate tariffs. The staff member seemed so patient and happy to speak with me. It was almost like talking to a friend. I really felt as though she was on my side. She even pointed out that I could get a better rate than the two year tariff that I was thinking of changing to. She said that the one year tariff could save me more. She even did a calculation based on my previous usage to calculate how much I would save – about £200 a year! Thank you! I was very impressed. I felt incredibly reassured as I could see that she knew what she was talking about. She had clearly been well trained to know what products and tariffs they could offer. At the end of the conversation, the staff member checked whether there was “anything else AT ALL,” that she could help me with today. She was so friendly too and ended the call with one of those ongoing exchanges where we were wishing each other a good day. It is very unlikely that I will switch away from SSE in the near future. It is so refreshing to witness staff at a large organisation taking pride in the quality of the service that they offer. I would find it so much more stressful to deal with an electric company that offered poor service.

Just to add that SSE make a point of promoting energy saving advice. I like this as it shows that they are putting the customers’ needs first rather than trying to get as much money from them as possible. This is a great attitude for promoting customer loyalty. It’s a thumbs up from me.

Ideas on The Apprentice

handful of loyalty cards
Collecting loyalty card stamps

This week saw the start of Series 11 of The Apprentice. As predicted there are a few characters on the show. One such character is Richard Woods, a founding director of a digital marketing agency. In week two, he was project manager of a task which involved the marketing of a cactus shampoo. He was seen giving each team member the chance to pitch in with their own ideas. Baroness Karren Brady commented that she wondered if Richard had bought a book on management skills and read it cover to cover prior to coming on the show. It was quite funny because she said she wondered whether Richard was actually listening to them or just pushing what he wanted. Following on from this, I decided that I would discuss the ways in which managers can motivate their staff by giving them the autonomy to have their own ideas.

Three examples are shown below:
Loyalty card stamps: Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze conducted a study into the effort that customers put into achieving the reward from their loyalty cards. They conducted a study with a car wash business involving a total of 300 customers. The loyalty cards involved collecting stamps in order to get a free car wash. There were two groups in the study. One group was given a card that required 8 stamps in order to receive the reward. The second group was given a card that required 10 stamps in order to get the reward. However these cards had two stamps already completed. This is known as ‘artifical enhancement’. The second group were found to be 44% more likely to complete the cards. The completion time also decreased. This effect has been named the Endowed Progress Effect. You could allow your staff the discretion to provide one or two extra stamps when issuing customers with their loyalty cards.
Store environment: The coffee shop chain Harris and Hoole gives their staff input into what music is played in the store. This is a simple, yet effective, way to engage staff.
Treating customers: Pret A Manger rejects the loyalty card idea, in favour of giving out a certain allowance of free items to their customers each day. The staff members are given the freedom to choose which customers receive the free items.

What do you think of these ideas? It would be great to hear your thoughts!

Related articles: Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

quote about employee engagement
In last week’s post, I spoke about some highly motivated and engaged employees in a cycle store. Extensive research has been carried out which has closely linked employee engagement to customer experience. Dan Pink carried out some research into the key factors that motivate employees. He found that the three most important factors, apart from a fair monetary reward, were as follows:
Autonomy: Research shows that staff react better to being given guidelines, rather than strict rules that they need to follow. It is important to give staff some freedom to do the job the way they want to do it.
Mastery: People want to feel as though they are getting better at doing something that matters.
Purpose: It is natural for staff to want to make customers happy. It is important to publicise to staff what the business is working to achieve and why.

I will discuss some of these factors in greater depth in future posts. For now, I will refer back to my experience last week in the cycle store. I think we can see how some of these factors came into play. The staff member who wanted to learn from his colleague had enough autonomy to be honest about this without fear of being reprimanded. He was keen to master a new skill. The staff member saw an opportunity in learning more about the nutrition in their energy food to be able to make me and other customers happy in future = purpose. Furthermore research by the Temkin Group also showed that employees who feel as though they are contributing are 30% less likely to take more than one sick day. How do you implement these factors into your business? See you next week when we will be returning to the cycle store!


Learning Something New

selection of energy snacks A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a friendly employee in a cycle store selling me unusual flavours of Mule Bars: Liquorice and Coconut.

This week I returned to a different branch of the same store. I asked an employee for some advice on some snacks to take with me on a long bike ride. The employee directed me to another staff member who was more of an expert in that area and would be better positioned to advise me. He said, however, that he would listen while his colleague told me about the products as he was keen to learn more about them. I thought that this store had a fantastic ethos and team spirit. I could see that the staff were passionate about creating a great experience for their customers. The employee who I initially spoke to was motivated by being able to learn new information and he wasn’t afraid to let me know that a colleague could teach him a few things. A great team effort! Next week’s post will continue this theme by discussing how staff can be motivated by being given the chance to master a new skill or gain new knowledge.