(This is the second post in our series as we build our new business)

I had the best customer service I’ve ever experienced in the food court of a mall.

Ten years ago I started attending a November conference in Buckhead just outside of Atlanta. I arrived early and had some time to kill. Most years my Christmas present shopping is limited to December 23rd or 24th. I decided to get ahead of the game and went to a mall across from my hotel.

After picking up a couple of gifts I walked by the food court. One of the restaurants was a classic American style diner. It had the sixties vibe with stools around the counter and fifties and sixties music (Can’t get enough of The Lion Sleeps Tonight by the Tokens – check it out). As an enthusiastic consumer of burgers, fries and milkshakes I decided to get lunch.

The service was the best I have ever experienced. From the time I sat down and was immediately greeted enthusiastically and handed the menu, to half an hour later when I asked for the check and my server pulled it out of his back pocket, the experience was as good as it could get. He was busy with a number of people but he still

  • Made a great first impression
  • Was happy and friendly
  • Was passionate about the products he was representing
  • Was proactive and anticipated my needs multiple times
  • Was very fast and efficient
  • Went beyond my expectations

For the next five years I attended the same conference in the same location. Every year I went back to the diner the day I landed to see if the experience was repeatable (and to have a good burger). Every year I was served by the same employee and the experience was the same. The food was always consistent and good but you can only do so much with burgers and fries. It was the service experience that was spectacular.

People or Process?

So what is more important in providing customers with a wow experience – people or process?

Fast forward 4 years and the conference returned to Buckhead after 3 years in other locations. The mall had been renovated and the food court had moved. The diner now had a small table area beside the counter. My guy seemed to be running the tables. I took a seat at the counter eager to see if the experience would change with a new server.

My server greeted me enthusiastically. She followed through with all of the service processes (holding up the straws when a drink is served, a smiley face of ketchup when you order fries) and was very friendly. My drink didn’t come quite as fast, my water wasn’t refilled and my bill took a couple minutes. It was an above average experience but didn’t have the wow touches of my previous server.

I attended a Hozier concert with my teenager a month ago in Toronto. The diner chain has a location close to the concert venue so we decided to give it a try. Different location and a new country. How would the service experience rate?

The food was the same good quality and our server followed the processes. If this was my first experience with this chain I wouldn’t go back. Our server checked none of the boxes that made my initial experience so great. My teenager (who has never commented on service before) remarked on how slow and grumpy our server was. From my experience, teenagers know grumpy well.

Process is important in creating repeatable customer service but it’s your people that add the WOW.

[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1cAgCJN”]Process is important in creating repeatable customer service but it’s your people that add the WOW[/tweetthis]

I found this quote from the owner of the Buckhead location.

“It’s not just the food; it’s the crew; our servers and how we train them to be very attentive and to take good care of our customers. That’s why we endeavor to hire people that are engaging, easy to talk to and that are comfortable making other people happy.”
– Franchise Owner

The people focus is intentional. The great service I received at this location wasn’t a fluke. A combination of hiring and training philosophy creates the conditions for a wow customer experience. Too many businesses aren’t deliberate enough with setting service expectations and making sure their hires are a culture fit.

Putting Theory into Action

So how do we take our cloud accountants for small business service and create a world class client experience? Technical knowledge, accuracy and efficient service are base level expectations. We have to do a lot more. Check out our next blog post to see our 7 ideas for delivering a WOW customer experience. Thanks for reading and we would love to hear your comments as we build our business.