Can you remember the best meal you’ve ever had?
Maybe it was an extravagant multi-course tasting menu, a vivacious holiday meal shared with loved ones, or a simple street taco handed to you out of the window of a food truck.
No matter the contents of the meal, there is one thing I’m willing to bet.
I’ll bet the experience was what made it the most memorable.
Focusing on customer experience is the bread and butter of Jeanie Janas, hospitality veteran and current Director of Operations for Cooks of Crocus Hill in Minneapolis. Apex North partnered with Janas to create an in-depth workshop for businesses looking to take their customer experience to the next level. Drawing on decades of providing guest-centric hospitality in world-class restaurants, Janas is truly an expert in crafting unforgettable customer experiences.
What does next-level hospitality have to do with your business? To Glen Dall, CEO of Apex North Business Coaching, the connection is clear:
“An incredible customer experience begins by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. If we look at the journey through their eyes, we see each moment as an opportunity to surprise and delight them - just like we’d expect to be delighted at an exceptional restaurant or hotel.”
In our Customer Journey workshop, Janas shares four crucial insights for business leaders:
1. Craft an Experience
Businesses often reduce customers simply to “leads”, focusing primarily on shortening the time between initial interaction and getting paid. This is a mistake, and gives you a false sense of the timeline of your customer’s experience. In reality, a customer’s journey begins before you are even aware of them, and extends far beyond the moment they pay. In some cases, their experience with your business stays with them for years, perhaps forever.
Sales teams need to expand their thinking beyond the transaction. Mapping each touch point in a customer journey can yield insights about where your customers are left wondering what’s happening next, or where they might be overwhelmed with paperwork.
Challenge your team to spread the touch points out, and give careful thought to how far the arc of your customer’s journey extends beyond where you might typically think.
2. Care is the Key
In our workshop with Jeanie, we asked participants to share the best (and worst) experiences they’ve had as customers. Across the board, the experiences that left them raving were ones where they felt listened to, welcomed, and seen as an individual. Interestingly, many of the most memorable positive experiences came when a business was able to solve a problem with grace and care.
How can a CEO or Team Leader ensure that all team members are showing care for customers, and answering the deep unconscious questions Janas mentions above? She offers one idea: gathering stories.
3. Stories are Magical
Stories are a powerful connector. Shift the perspective of your customer experience to think about the stories a customer will tell about your business, instead of merely executing on the process. The stories told about your business are likely to be the number one attractor (or detractor) for new customers!
Another way to leverage storytelling is to actively elicit stories from your customers.
What would it look like if the person selling you a car learned how much you cherish the memories of the road trips you took in the family Station Wagon as a kid? How often would you recommend that car dealership over others?
4. Automate the Ordinary to Elevate the Sublime
How much of your process can you “automate”? This may not mean through technology - although that certainly helps. Getting your teams to a point where executing on a process is second nature not only makes those processes work more efficiently, it also frees up brain space, so those employees who interact with customers can focus on experience, not just ticking boxes on a checklist.
Overall, Janas emphasized looking for “pleasure in the process” of providing a high-level service for your customers. Especially in industries where product excellence is the norm (like fine dining), remembering to listen to customers, put their journey first, and craft an incredible experience beginning to end can truly set your business apart.