Fun fact: I have a bucket list of restaurants I want to try in the world. It’s been compiled from blog posts, magazine articles, friends on social media and word of mouth. Over the years, I’ve slowly chipped away at this list; often not left as wowed as I had expected to be, whether that be the food, the service, or the atmosphere as a whole.

This is, until a couple of weekends ago.

The Perfect Italian Restaurant Setting

My other half and I headed to one of the top-rated Italian restaurants in the Scottsdale area — the only one with a consistent five-star rating since it opened. It’s the kind of blink-and-you-miss-it place that you had to have read about once, actually searched for on Yelp, or you happened to know someone that had dined there. 

When we entered the restaurant, we were hit with that distinct fresh Italian aroma — the kind that makes you think you can order one of everything on the menu because you have to try it all. When we were pleasantly greeted at the door and led to our table, I do what I always do and scanned the room. The wall décor was a mix of old-world Italian and more modern art, bridging the gap between generations of family chefs.

It was dimly lit with simple wood tables and candles — the kind of seating you expect at restaurants all over Italy or even if you just want that authentic Italian experience elsewhere. There was beautiful music coming from the lone Italian guitarist in the back corner and laughter was filling the dining area — it wasn’t overcrowded but every table, spaced just right, was full of smiling people of all ages.

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Going Above and Beyond for Customer Experience

The server team came to our table and pleasantly introduced themselves to us. Immediately, the main server asked us if we still wanted bread, which signaled to me that the hostess quietly told her I have Celiac (gluten-intolerance) — something that is noted on my OpenTable account. That kind of discreetness is something I have never experienced at a restaurant before — I’m usually having to either retell the server that should have known or explain as best I can what the disease is. It showed me that each server was trained to go above and beyond.

This personalized experience was furthered by the manager, the chef’s husband, coming to each and every table, greeting the guests as though they were longtime friends. We learned more of the history of why his wife opened the restaurant — to honor her father’s legacy through traditional recipes, and to ensure they kept alive the tradition of serving guests as family.

Learning Opportunities

Mission accomplished. 

Of course, the meal and the wine were some of the best Italian I have yet to have (even with gluten-free pasta). The Caprese was made with some of the freshest ingredients I’ve had at an Italian restaurant in the United States, and my pasta dish was the family’s own recipe of which 100% of the proceeds go towards the family’s Culinary Arts Foundation — another delightful discovery that hit two more notes with me: Training great chefs and giving back to those in need.

Related Article: The Most Important Components of the Customer Experience

Good Customer Experience Comes from Little Things

Why I share my dining story…

Oftentimes, us as customer experience professionals and even as marketers, over-engineer everything in a customer journey. Read that again. The surprise and delight don’t necessarily come from the large, grandiose displays at conferences, fancy marketing materials, or over-the-top events (though they are fun). Instead, they come from the little things — unexpected personalization, human connection and establishing/maintaining a culture that customers identify with and want to continue to be a part of. 

5 Key Customer Experience Lessons 

Below are the five key takeaways from my experience that hopefully provide some thought-provoking ideas for your own customer experiences:

  1. While a great dining experience is designed to appeal to all five senses, ask yourself which ones appeal to your customers. Tone of voice, pleasant imagery (even a Zoom background), taking your customer to a restaurant with inviting smells, etc. all play a part in their experience with you. Also, ask yourself what would appeal to you if you were a customer of your organization?
  2. Personalization isn’t about code in an email that pre-populates someone’s name. It’s about taking note of likes/dislikes, allergies, culturally-specific practices, etc. that they may casually mention or that you notice. Incorporating these is the biggest sign of respect one can bestow and goes a very long way.
  3. Executives/senior management taking the time to meet customers helps to solidify important relationships that leads to better/increased ARR. It doesn’t matter the industry — the opportunity for a customer to meet higher management/executives, even if for a brief moment, can make a significant difference in the future of the partnership. In the case of our dining experience, it helped solidify our decision to come back again.
  4. Giving back to your community shows customers you care about something greater than the bottom line. I’ve recently seen more organizations give customers the option of a gift card or choosing a charity to donate the money to. It demonstrates that your organization cares about the people around them and certainly, the message will resonate with most customers as well. It brings joy to almost all when they can make even a small difference in someone else’s life.
  5. Maintaining a consistent culture for your employees and customers is the No. 1 way to high retention rates and consistently high NPS scores. It seems obvious, but the reality is staff comes and goes. And without proper and consistent training on the culture your organization established long ago, your organization will see inconsistent results from employees, which leads to a high fluctuation in customer retention and reviews. In the case of our dining experience, it was clear that the restaurant’s training was impeccably detailed and consistent, further proven through the abundance of five-star reviews given.

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