A Lesson in Customer Experience

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Don on 27-06-2007

In our world of low-ball pricing, contracts, bids, RFQ’s and loss leader/low margin catalogs is it even possible that any kind of business can demonstrate success with total disregard to what the end-user or consumer has to pay?  We work our collective tails off to give our customers a unique and pleasurable customer experience while at the same time cutting our margins to levels that keep CEO’s and owners up all through the night wondering why.  Well let me share a story about a restaurant in Colombia.  Have you ever heard of a place called Andrés Carne de Res? You probably haven’t because it’s in a little town called Chía in the outskirts of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá.  Right now you’re probably thinking what in the blazes does some out-of-the-way restaurant in South America have to tell me about business, right?  Well, let’s dig a little deeper, who knows, you may actually find a few pearls of wisdom!

Andrés Carne de Res (“Andrés”) is difficult to translate, but for reference, in Spanish it sounds something like Jake’s Porterhouse Steaks.  This ‘little’ restaurant serves over 7500 people in a weekend alone and his business does over $1.5M per month in sales.  They have 700 servers and customers routinely wait over 30 minutes in line to sit in otherwise very uncomfortable wooden chairs.  The prices are as high as they can make them but the customers never complain.  You see, they come for the experience!  Andrés Jaramillo, the owner, has a very peculiar business philosophy when it comes to a customer experience.  People will drive 30-45 minutes just to get there and are so excited to get in that by not making it easy to get in adds to the anxiety and excitement of what awaits them when they finally get seated. 

The customers are directed down a very long, narrow corridor and are treated with a variety of sensory experiences that add to the anxiety of what is to come.  The owner has created a unique dimension of sight, smell, and sounds that offer such an experience that the customers can’t get enough!  Of course the food is exquisite, the service outstanding and the presentation is impeccable.  Our U.S restaurants work on the premise of quality, food, price and service.  But what has happened to the “experience?”  Isn’t it the experience that keeps you longing to come back?  Isn’t it the experience that you remember and your mind tells you to go back for more no matter what the cost is?

A few years ago my wife and I were on a trip to Las Vegas and visited a restaurant called “The All American Bar & Grill” located inside the Rio Suite Hotel & Casino.  They featured a number of excellent quality prime cuts of aged beef.  We’re talking some serious steak.  Top of the list was a huge 24 ounce filet.  The kitchen was in the middle of the restaurant and enclosed in glass.  They cooked the steaks over an open mesquite grill.  The sights and smell of that place is as vivid in my mind now as it was when I sat there 10 years ago.  The service was outstanding, the steak was perfect and of course I had the best company anyone could ask for, my wonderful wife to whom I have now been blessed with for over 27 years!   It was an ‘experience’ I would gladly pay any price to enjoy again. 

Have you figured it out yet?  You’ve got to be different.  You must change the way you think about doing business.  Be creative and be willing to take a chance on doing something that will create such a unique experience in your customers mind that price won’t be the objection any longer.  Price is just an excuse!  Wow them with your uniqueness, be different, give them something more than the single-dimension experience of internet ordering.  A little-known place like Andrés in the middle of Colombia is driving innovation because they design their service around what’s meaningful to people.   What does it mean to do business with you?

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