Everyone has an opinion about customer service.
One of the issues is that the term, itself, has become somewhat standard in our vocabulary. We know that you have to ring customer services, which are often helplines that provide no such thing. We talk about bad customer service when we find a waitress is rude, or the food is late, and discuss good customer service in the same terms. Customer service has become about the interaction between staff, and the customer: very much at the frontline of the experience.
For me, the best customer service I’ve ever had was at a Gaucho Grill restaurant, in London. It was the first time I’d been, four or so years ago. We had finished the most amazing steak and had moved onto a wonderful cheese course, with our coffees.
I recall being absorbed in conversation, exploring the cheese board, when the waiter came over. “Excuse me, sir,” he said politely. “I noticed your coffee is going cold. May I take it away and bring you a fresh one when you have finished the cheese course?”
I was so amazed, I tipped. The biggest tip I have ever left. Because good service should be rewarded. That reward went to the individual who gave me the service, but Gaucho Grill was rewarded too, because in retelling the tale and revisiting again and again since, I brought it new business. The great service – indeed, an exemplary service – made the meal a memorable one.
Great service is what you leave a tip for.
It is not the same as a great customer experience, because the customer experience is a bigger concept, the sum total of your interactions with an organisation.
Let’s take Gaucho Grill again, as a good example. A restaurant such as Gaucho Grill fulfills a customer need: to have an enjoyable lunch or dinner in a social setting with good food.
They are known for their steaks. But you can eat steak anywhere, so why go to Gaucho’s over another steak restaurant, especially when it is known for being one of the most expensive steak restaurants in London?
The food, of course, is excellent, as is the wine, as is the coffee. The service, as we have already established, is also excellent. The decor, with seats covered in cow hide, is a great talking point – this restaurant is all about the cow. When you walk in through the door, you are immersed in an experience that does not let up until you walk out again.
The point is that Gaucho Grill are selling so much more than that steak: they are selling an experience.
The experience is what you go for. It is not about being served your steak, though that is a part of it. It is about everything from when you walk in, to when you walk out (and even beyond). It is about the ordering process, being served your food, the taste of the food, the atmosphere of the environment, the cleanliness of the toilets, the music in the background.
A great experience is what makes a place a destination.
Service Design can be targeted at designing better customer service, but this is often done better when you have designed better customer experiences, first.