There is nothing quite like an American diner. I love them.
There is the food.
Down-to-Earth, simple, great tasting fare. And lots of it.
Stacked pancakes dripping with maple syrup, served with a generous helping of sliced banana and crispy bacon.
Eggs every way imaginable.
And those loaded burgers accompanied by a stack of salted fries and a thick, creamy milkshake.
Then there is the sense of community, the drawing in of people sharing news and gossip over bottomless cups of coffee.
But most of all it’s the people that work there.
Each person plays a beautifully choreographed role, perfectly defined and detailed.
There is no overlap. There is no confusion.
From the person greeting you with a smile and showing you to your table, to the employee quietly filling your water glass uninvited, the server taking your order, and the busboy or busgirl clearing your table once you’ve gone.
It runs like clockwork. It looks effortless.
In the process you feel looked after and cared for. Like your custom really matters to them.
And when they see you off with the words ‘have a nice day’, you genuinely feel like they mean it.
Companies should take note.
In times when trading is tough, numbers are down, competition is stronger and customers are demanding more, these simple models and old fashioned values make all the difference.
We need to put the customer back at the heart of the business.
Companies must truly understand what the customer wants, their behaviours, their considerations and their experience from beginning to end.
There are so few genuinely great examples of companies going that bit further, understanding the needs and concerns of their customers and addressing them in simple and unobtrusive ways.
Sometimes, rather like in the diner, the examples mould so well into your experience, that you don’t even notice their greatness. You only realise what a difference it made when you have to deal with a far less sensitive and understanding approach from another company.
Other times, the offer is so surprising, so wonderfully different and considerate, you can’t help but sit up and take note.
MINI and Metro Bank are great examples of companies that do this time and again, but in very different ways.
I am a HUGE fan of both.
MINI are the kings of cheeky and fun, the masters of personalised and thoughtful service.
They are the culmination of a hundred small gestures which together add up to something far, far bigger.
From the ‘hands off this is [insert name]’s new MINI’ sign in a recently purchased car in the show room, to being greeted by name as you drive into the car park, and the video they send you of your car during a service showing you why you really do need to change your brake pads.
Metro Bank has taken a different, but equally effective route.
They listened to the frustrations of the British consumer and addressed their major gripes head on – they are open 7 days a week, don’t shut up shop until 8pm on weekdays and are super efficient, setting up new accounts in less than 15 minutes.
But they have also thought about the customer experience. You are greeted by a member of staff as soon as you walk in the door. You get to talk face to face with a member of staff, rather than have to shout to be heard through a thick piece of safety glass.
And they go the extra mile. Recently my mum, after withdrawing a reasonably sizable amount of cash, found herself being escorted down the high street by a Metro Bank staff member to ensure she, and the cash, safely made it to their destination. Now that is customer service.
Putting the customer at the heart of the business doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive to implement.
It is about taking the time to listen to and to understand your customer.
It is about educating the business in the ways and needs of your customers, and helping them put the customer at the heart of every decision.
It is about being clear on the emotions you want to inspire and the personality of your company.
And it is about empowering your employees to take action within the remit of their roles, and the language of your company, to serve your customers and to give them the best possible experience.