Have you ever watched Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares? Yes I know that Mr Ramsay is the kind of guy that people love or hate, but there is no doubting that the man is extremely talented. Many people have an issue with him due to his choice of language – but I have always admired him – and interestingly, my admiration has nothing to do with his cooking ability. Please do not get me wrong, I would love to be able to write about the culinary delights that come out of his kitchens. However, my current circumstances do not allow for me to dine at one of his restaurants on a regular basis – or any basis for that matter!!

So why do I admire him? What has Gordon Ramsay got to do with the subject of customer experience? Gordon Ramsay is a lot more than ‘just a chef’. He is a man who over the many years he has spent refining his trade, like many restaurateurs, recognised the significance of designing and delivering an experience that would keep his diners coming back time and time again. He does not tolerate anything but the best – from his people, to his ingredients, to the décor of his establishments. What is very clear is that he possesses passion – an intense burning desire to give his customers what he believes they deserve and are paying for – excellence.

Now, a man that stands for the things I have just described, and that has years of experience at delivering excellence, has a huge amount of wisdom to offer others. And that is where Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares comes in. In a TV programme that has featured restaurants in both the UK and the US, Gordon Ramsay attempts to transform struggling restaurants with his own menu of extremely frank and forthright advice – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/ramsays-kitchen-nightmares – it very much sounds like the brief any customer experience professional is given when entering an organisation for the first time. What Gordon Ramsay is essentially tasked with doing is ‘holding up a mirror’ to the owner of an establishment that is not doing very well……that is basically doing very badly.

The job of any good customer experience professional is to enable an organisation to see its own reflection – to hold up the ‘mirror’. To see the truth. To see sometimes the ‘ugly’ truth. For a business to recognise the opportunities for improvement, it first needs to acknowledge that improvement is needed in the first place. This is what Gordon Ramsay is expert at. Although his programme is somewhat predictable, it is so representative of the start of many customer experience efforts. The process goes something like this:

  1. Visit restaurant – gauge first impressions from the décor, building, surroundings
  2. Meet the staff – befriend a waitress and get her to tell you exactly how things really are
  3. Try the product – order a variety of things off the menu
  4. Clarify that the product is not very good (or’ sucks’ for my US friends)
  5. Visit the kitchen and reel off a list of expletives
  6. Chat with the owner of the business who denies that there is anything wrong with it, despite the fact that Gordon has just identified that the food tastes like it has been rescued from a dustbin, that there are live insects populating the kitchen, and that the restaurant has only had one customer for the last three and a half weeks!

Predictable or not, it is vital that this process is completed – in order for any independent expert/specialist to determine what needs to be done, they must first experience what the customer does. What Gordon does is get the credibility to provide his opinion. He gets this credibility by seeing the journey for himself. He has earned the credibility to pass his opinion as one of the most successful restaurateurs in the world. What he also understands is how personal it is to own your own business. He is not surprised that the owners of the business defend it to the hilt, irrespective of what might be the blindingly obvious.

It is not easy to have someone tell you that there is something wrong with your business. I often describe business owners as alcoholics – not a great analogy I admit. But the alcoholic business owner is the one who will not admit they have a problem. Gordon Ramsays job in his TV series is to get them to admit it. The job of a customer experience professional is to do the same. And how does Gordon do it – exactly as the customer experience professional would – by serving up the facts. Gordon’s approach is sometimes rather brutal, and a bit shocking – however, I sometimes think that his approach is absolutely right – to get people to realise the extent of the problem, you sometimes need to shock them. Once the reality kicks in, you can then start to work on the opportunities.

Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares always ends with a reformed business owner who has embraced all of Gordon’s recommendations and who is overseeing the transformation of their business. Yes it is all a bit tongue in cheek; theatrical; dramatic; but the outcome is as any customer experience professional would hope.

I think that all businesses could do with Gordon Ramsay – well someone like him anyway. Someone who has the credibility to hold up the mirror and get you to honestly appraise what you see. Acknowledging and addressing things that are wrong can only be a good thing, and I applaud Gordon Ramsay for creating and leading a TV series that does just that. So the next time you ‘have a go at Gordon’ for using a few expletives, just spare a thought for the hundreds of business owners he has helped. I am sure they have forgiven him for a few F Words!

As always, please feel free to comment on this or any of my blogs.