by Carolyn Craven

Last night, my husband and I spent date night at our favorite local restaurant, Lumiere. We eat dinner there a couple of times a month, so we’ve gotten to know a number of the staff members, especially Adam the bartender, Carol the hostess, and Michael the executive chef. From the moment we walk in the door, it’s almost like we’ve gone over to a friend’s house for a dinner party. Carol greets us warmly at the door and says she’s sorry, she would have reserved the two remaining seats at the bar if she had known it was us who has just called to inquire on their availability. Adam, as usual, remembers my favorite wine, the fact that I’m a vegetarian, and that my husband has a penchant for pear sidecars. Michael stops by twice during dinner to chat amiably and make sure we’re happy with dinner. The food is delicious as always, but it’s the personal attention that makes the visit memorable and keeps us coming back week after week. Overall, an excellent customer experience.

But our experience at Lumiere hasn’t been perfect every time. We had dinner there one night about a year ago when the kitchen was clearly having an off night. Our meals took an extraordinarily long time to come out and we ended up having to cut our dinner short in order to get home to our babysitter. To Lumiere’s credit, they were very apologetic, comp’d part of our meal, and gave us a gift certificate for the two desserts we weren’t able to stay and enjoy. Had this night been our first experience in the restaurant, my customer satisfaction level probably would have been pretty high because they did all the right things to compensate us for our inconvenience. But I’m not sure if those customer service tactics alone would have been enough to lure us back again and again.

I suspect that the restaurant’s focus on quality food and service aren’t the only reasons that regulars like us dine there consistently. For me at least, what keeps me coming back is the whole diner experience – the way we are made to feel welcome and valued from the moment we step through the door until the time we leave. The fact that every employee there seems to care about every customer. The fact that the restaurant doesn’t seem as concerned with how you mark up a customer satisfaction scorecard as it is with making sure you leave feeling warm and fuzzy.

For those of us that are more analytically inclined (myself included), it can be easy to fall into the rut of focusing purely on customer satisfaction scores from individual elements of our business. While it’s important to gauge satisfaction levels in multiple business areas so we know where problems lie and where to focus our attention, it’s equally important to rise above the detail and assess how we’re doing when it comes to the customer experience as a whole. Are we in tune with our buyer persona(s)? Do we know what’s really important to them and what’s not? Are we integrating those needs and demands into every area of our business so that their customer experience is not just positive, but also cohesive?

Take a lesson from a really well run restaurant and start treating your customers as ‘regulars’. Make sure that they feel welcomed, listened to, and valued at every touch point you have with them. Be attentive to their feedback and address their questions and concerns as best you can, but also don’t underestimate the power of that warm and fuzzy feeling.