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Posted: December 17, 2012

Vinegar to wine: Today’s customer service

It's the people

David Sneed

Remember that time you went to Stag’s Leap and loved it so much you took a bottle home?

Maybe you were visiting with your sister, Helen, who you hadn’t seen in a while, and you sat together looking over the trim vineyard in the tawny glow of the setting California sun. The warm breeze brushed your nose with the hint of flowers, while the smooth Merlot slid you softly into a stupor. You both relaxed, and the wine was sublime and perfect. You finally felt at one with where you are in life. You’ve finally made it.

The Vintner himself poured your glass, and he listened to your travel tales; impressed by your knowledge of Tuscan wines. And the gal who chauffeured the pretzels around was charming in her European apron and clogs. “This is perfect,” you thought, “the way I dreamed it would be.”

A month later, back in the real world, you host a party and excite everyone with this beautiful bottle you brought back from the trip. They hang on every word as you described the bouquet and the pure joy they’ll soon experience.

You open it; and pour it; and the friendliest guest there murmurs “mmm” as he looks for something he might have dropped on the floor. Everyone else mumbles how nice it is and the talk quickly turns to this weird weather we’ve been having. Your own disappointment appears as a tinge of heat on your cheeks and the room becomes a wake. Truth is: the wine just wasn’t all that good.

It’s the same stuff of course, but it’s lacking that je ne sais quoi it had back in Cali. Something’s different for sure and it’s this: Your mood. You’ve just learned that atmosphere changes experience.

When you were in Napa with your sister, it all got you in the mood for the wine: the setting, the company, the smells and the sights. That’s why we go to Napa. That’s also why we go to a restaurant, or to a cocktail bar, or to a movie.  Some things are just better away from home.

So here’s the business tie-in: If you have a mediocre wine but a spectacular atmosphere, you’ll always have customers. They’ll come back again and again because you met their expectation for the experience they wanted to have.

So…What is the main ingredient in a customer experience?

 It’s the people. The people you employ have the power to make your company better or worse than your product is.

How many times have you gone to a great restaurant, enjoyed the food, but refuse to go back because of something done or said? I can’t be the only one.

And if I go to Computerama and wait an hour to be told it isn’t ready - I won’t go back for a thousand coupons. If I walk into an eatery and the hostess won’t look up to say hello I’ll go next door. That’s why I’m not at my house with Swanson’s right now; I want to enjoy my dinner experience.

Some folks say you need good customer service but you don’t - you need caring people. You need charming people. Sit them down and tell ‘em: “Your job is to be nice to my customers. I want you to solve their problem; but be nice, and be funny and charming.”

We get so caught up in customer service training that we lose sight of what’s actually important. You want to teach your staff is to manage customer experiences – to make us like the mood we feel when we’re in your store.

If you help me to enjoy trading my dollars for your marginal Merlot I promise I’ll be back. And I’ll bring my friends.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

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