I had dinner last week at what is arguably my favourite restaurant in town. I have been in the UK all week. My calendar was manic and dinner was a great way of eating, of socialising with a colleague, of putting the world to rights, and of agreeing some ideas about how we can best advance an exciting project we are working on together.
And it worked. Granted we achieved some of those goals better than others…I don’t think the world will move in any particularly different trajectory because of our meal…but we definitely did very well on the others.
So my favourite restaurant then? I can’t actually remember why I first went…but almost certainly it would have been on the recommendation of a friend or colleague. Maybe a real friend or colleague…or maybe it was an internet review…
If I was asked what I had to eat last Wednesday I could just about remember (lamb Molago). If you asked me to tell you what I ate the time before that I would struggle…other than that it was definitely a curry. But I do remember what a great evening we had; who else was there; why we were there; and how much we all enjoyed ourselves. And how great the experience was.
I haven’t flown with Virgin Atlantic for well over ten years…and yet somehow I still have that recollection that when I did I always had a great experience. Even now I would likely jump at the chance if one came up…its quiet surprising as I think about it. It has to be that ‘great experience’ thing.
I once found myself sitting in a seminar in New York (no I don’t remember why or how) given by an Innovation Leader from Virgin (the ‘parent company rather than Atlantic). The first thing I remember was how open she was. She compared and contrasted the Virgin stunning successes…airlines, mobile phones & broadband, holidays…to the (really quite hard to remember) failures…Cola, Cosmetics? Flowers (yes really).
So what did they learn? Well everything successful revolves around the customer experience. And the customer experience is based on the ‘touch points’ – the moments that directly impact the customer; moments that affect how they feel. ‘Moments of truth’.
This resonated at the time…and still does. The successful Virgin businesses have multiple ‘moments’ where the customer interacts with the business. The unsuccessful Virgin businesses don’t.
And it is just as interesting to consider that although many of these moments are person to person (cabin crew on planes; help lines for telephones), many are virtual (web sites for banking, advertisements for holidays). But they are all designed and implemented in a manner that impacts the customer specifically to deliver the experience. Everyone at Virgin involved in and around these moments of truth are trained and are aware…and are recognised and rewarded.
And it is the experience that we remember as customers. We recount our experiences. We refer based on these experiences. It was my experience with Virgin Atlantic that I remember and that makes me wonder about when next.
So back to my favourite restaurant. The one I remember, recount and refer. It is my experience that counts. The multiple touch points from booking, arriving, ordering through to serving and even paying. Multiple touch points that happen every time I visit. Of course the quality is important (wonderful). And the price (impressive). But they are (literally) table stakes.
Restaurants are a competitive business. Success comes from differentiation…but differentiation based on the experience of the customer.
I hadn’t thought about Virgin’s ‘moments of truth’ for a while…years in fact. Another benefit from my dinner last week.