Allow me to start this post by asking a question. What happens when two Customer Experience Professionals visit a restaurant together for the first time?
Whilst this is not the opening line to a bad joke, I can already anticipate your ‘snorting’ and ‘chuckling’ from here! ‘A right royal pain in the butt’, is most likely to be the response that immediately springs to mind. You would not be too far off the mark. Just ask any Customer Experience Professional, or more importantly, their other halves, what it is like being out in public with someone who finds it almost impossible to ‘turn off’ their Customer Experience brain.
I am not trying to suggest that Customer Experience Professionals are difficult to live with (although I am sure they can be!!) – just that if you do what we do for a living, you are always instinctively looking for the good, the bad and the ugly, in the experiences we have on a daily basis.
As a result, when any organisation plays host to a Customer Experience Professional – let alone two at the same time – they have no idea what they may be in for! This week I have had the pleasure and honour of working in South Africa – more specifically Johannesburg – a city I have visited many times over the last couple of years. I consider myself to be remarkably blessed to be able to ply my trade all over the world – yet it is even more of a blessing to meet and collaborate with brilliant people I meet along the way.
I first met Chantel Botha earlier this year. Like me, Chantel has devoted the majority of her career to doing what is right for people (customers and employees) – she is a living, breathing representation of what being a Customer Experience Professional is all about – passionate, driven, committed, giving, authentic, humble, brilliant. To just know her is an honour – to be able to share our perspectives on Customer Experience together is a joy. This week 14 people were on the receiving end of our mad ramblings – we are hopeful they got a lot of value out of it – I know that Chantel and I got an enormous amount of pleasure in doing it!
At the end of our first evening of knowledge sharing, Chantel, her lovely husband Johan and I visited a restaurant in Parktown North – a very nice suburb of Johannesburg. The restaurant had been recommended to us, knowing that I am a BIG fan of South African meat. When we entered The Local Grill that evening, little did I expect that we would have an experience that would lead me writing this article. (Warning – if you are a staunch vegetarian, you may find the following paragraphs uncomfortable!).
The Local Grill is not too dissimilar to any ‘steak’ restaurant you may come across around the world. A variety of ‘animal’ paraphernalia donned the walls; huge steak knives lay waiting on the tables; the smell’s emanating from the kitchen inducing instant salivation.
We were shown to a table and started to peruse the menu. For meat eater like myself, the menu was a piece of artwork in itself. Fillet, T-Bone, Rump, Sirloin – a wonderful array of the finest cuts of beef were on offer. However, I had a problem – the menu offered their meat in multiple ways – grain fed; grass fed; dry aged; wet aged – what is a man who just wants the best steak on the menu to do?!
As we started to debate the relative merits of the variety on offer, our waiter appeared at our table again. ‘Would you please follow me’, he said. ‘We would like to show you our kitchen’. Slightly confused, we, along with a group of other customers, followed him.
Really – you want us to see the kitchen? At almost 45 years of age, I can not recall ever being invited into the kitchen of a suburban restaurant before. I have been fortunate enough to have done so in some world class hotels – but never a ‘run of the mill’ restaurant. They were deadly serious. They proudly walked us through the ‘engine room’, where a number of chattering chefs fussed over their customers orders on the grill. We continued through the part of the kitchen where pots, pans, crockery and cutlery were being cleaned – the huge smiles on the faces of the kitchen staff were wonderful to see.
We ended up inside what looked like a development kitchen – full of ovens, fridges, freezers and an enormous grill. Standing in the room was one of the owners of the restaurant. ‘Welcome to our Kitchen’, he cried. Over the next ten minutes, this amazingly passionate man talked to us about the inner workings of their business – where their products came from, how it was cooked AND the difference between all of the varieties of meat on the menu.
We were taken into the fridge where the meat, ready for the table, is stored. Every cut was explained to us – this chap’s passion for his business was as clear to see as Chantel and my passion for the Customer Experience.
It was such an unexpected, but so powerful an experience. As we returned to our table, we all knew exactly what we were going to order! But there were a number of other things going through my mind. What an amazing example of what it means to deliver an experience that ‘ticks’ all of the Customer Experience boxes. Like any steak restaurant, it fulfilled the functional – we knew we would get a steak. It fulfilled the accessible – getting a table, ordering, paying – were all simple. Yet what was most important of all was the emotional experience – what I can tell you is that although my 500g T-Bone steak was glorious, it is not likely that I will remember it for very long. What I will remember is what this restaurant gave us the opportunity to do. Being taken into the ‘engine room’ of their business is an experience I will NEVER forget for the right reason – and that is that Customer Experience is all about.
Yet what the experience also made me consider is this – how many other organisations – whether they be a restaurant, a bank, an insurance company, a retailer, a telecom provider – would have the courage and belief to show their customers the inner workings of their company? Have you ever considered whether or not you would be prepared to show customers what it is like working in your contact centre? Have you ever brought customers to see your warehouse? What about the mail room, or the canteen or where your front line staff make things happen?
In many situations, you may think that customers would not dream of anything more dull than to be taken into a contact centre. I am not necessarily suggesting that you do – but what our experience at The Local Grill has prompted, is the need to ask the question:
“Would you be comfortable showing your customers the inner workings of your business”
In principle, the answer to this question should always be ‘yes’. If you have complete confidence in your end to end customer journey, you should be only too happy to do what The Local Grill did – in fact, you would be just as proud as they are. At the end of the day, we are all customers, having experiences every single day. By continually sharing the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly experiences we have, we can enable and influence the ongoing transformation of the way both customers and employees are treated around the world!
If you are ever in Johannesburg, you can find The Local Grill at 40, 7th Avenue, Parktown North – tel: +27 11 880 1946