Once a month I meet a friend of mine for an early breakfast. We visit the same restaurant – a highly visible well regarded high street brand which, by definition, you’d expect to offer a similar ‘brand experience’ every visit. For about 6 months I have made the observation that our ‘experience’ is never the same twice – either it’s the quality of the breakfast or the quantity; often indifferent presentation and worse still, the inconsistency in the quality (and temperature) of the coffee served.
So why did we continue to go? In truth, habit and crucially because it opened earlier than its competition, which allowed us to meet, breakfast and be at our desks by 9 am.
Earlier this week came the coup de gras. Arriving before my friend (and seemingly everyone else), I nodded a silent hello at a member of the kitchen team and sat myself at a table. For a full 17 minutes – including the subsequent arrival of my friend – we were untroubled by a member of staff until finally, after my vigorous gesticulation, a waiter who we recognised from our previous visits ambled over. Greeting him warmly, I enquired how he was. “Sleepy”, came the reply and he wandered off, presumably to fetch a menu. We didn’t wait to find out and left, unlikely to ever return but highly likely to tell others our story. We have found a new home – even though it opens 30 minutes later – the staff are welcoming, the breakfast excellent and the coffee exactly as it should be.
Anyone surprised? Me actually, but only with myself – in that it has taken me 6 visits over 6 months to vote with my feet – for there is power in our money, and how we choose to spend it can bring about real change. What we permit we promote and I might argue that the power has never been more with the people than it is today, especially with the increased competition for our ‘spending power’ in a struggling economy.
The rule of the (high street) jungle says that only the strong survive and in this context I suggest that means the provision of relevant products and services by well led, motivated employees offering a consistent and appropriate customer service experience. I often find the online experience with brands compares more favourably than a visit to a store! What does that say about the leadership on the ground? The demise of numerous high street brands in 2012 (JJB, Comet and Clintons included) has brought the importance of the customers brand experience sharply into focus.
Anyone surprised? Not me, for the leaders of consistently successful companies have a crystal clear vision for the business, a clear purpose (other than making money) and a ruthless focus on meeting the ever changing needs of their customer at the heart of a ‘values driven’ service culture. It’s amazing what businesses achieve once we have helped them to define a compelling vision, create authentic values and a bold customer promise; coupled with a responsive game plan.
It’s my belief that the purpose of business is to serve others and my view that many simply serve themselves. As for the leadership team at the restaurant where we used to have our breakfast, they are serving neither.
Graham Massey is the co-founder and Managing Director of The House, a business brand agency based in Bath that helps build companies and brands that customers believe in and want to buy from and that employees want to work for.