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Note to Self: Experience Matters

My “business bestie,” Andrew Carlson, wrote a best-selling book while he was in the restaurant industry called “Customer Service is the Bottom Line.” When you think about customer service, you may picture a friendly smile, the conversation, or the actual service that’s provided. But our minds are taking in so much more than what we are aware of… and all of that information is being built into our perception of the experience itself.

July 1, 2020. Things have started to open up a bit more… including my daughters’ dance studio in Orange County.

Due to Covid restrictions, parents are no longer allowed in the studio. Living 45 minutes (without traffic) away and knowing the girls dance 5-8 hours per day, mission #1 for me aside from having somewhere to get work done is having a restroom to use. My plan… find a restaurant I can camp out in, maybe one with power, so I have the needed facilities as day turns into night. I would usually go to the nearby food court, especially in the beautiful weather we’re having, but all of the facilities remain closed to customers.

Not wanting to “camp” a table somewhere, I ended up running errands and having dinner with a friend. Restroom access… yes. Work… not so much.

July 2, 2020. It’s time to catch up on work from the day before. Dinner with my friend was worth it, but the to-do list isn’t completing itself. Pull up to the dance studio. See friends I haven’t seen since March… who instantly ask “what are you going to do?”

“Um… what do you mean ‘what am I going to do?'”

“Didn’t you hear? They just ordered restaurants to close again… effective immediately.”

Insert expletive here. Where am I supposed to go? I can’t sit in my car for the next 5 hours. I already stimulated the economy the day before. Oh, patios are open? I wonder…

So I drove off to one of my favorite restaurants nearby. They have a small patio, 4 or 5 tables at most, but maybe I’ll get lucky. I’ll tip the server generously to make up for camping a table. But as I pull into the parking lot, I’m completely caught off guard.

From my parking spot, I watch as restaurant employees are rolling out fake grass, moving tables from inside, and putting up umbrellas to create an outdoor patio on what is usually the parking lot. As I enjoy my chips and skinny margarita, tucked away in the corner so I can work, go live on social media, etc., they continue to build a larger patio, add strings of lights, and set up patio heaters for when the sun went down

I jump onto social media to see what other restaurants are doing and see picture after picture of tables on hot asphalt with the hot Southern California sun beating down. Everything I wasn’t experiencing at this restaurant. So I asked the General Manager why he was going through so much effort. His off-the-record response was simple yet so meaningful, “Because I want this to be an experience. I don’t want our customers feeling like they’re eating in a parking lot.”

And it most definitely did not feel like I was sitting in a parking lot. In fact, I almost hope they continue to keep their new “outdoor seating” because it was really quite nice to be out enjoying the beautiful weather. He says he’d like to add music and maybe a live musician to complete the ambiance he created in those first few hours.

Because it’s not simply giving someone what they want or doing just enough to get by. It’s about creating an experience the customer didn’t know they could have. Whether it’s in business or in life, take a moment to go above and beyond. It’s the little things that often become the big things. As my business partner Greg says, “Give people the best experience of you.” Because experience matters.

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