“We’d like to buy you all dessert,” the waitress chirped.
We were entertaining two other couples at a lovely restaurant called Barcelona. The dinner had been flawless: wonderful wines, great food, superb service.
I cocked my head and squinted. “Why?”
“Well, my manager said you were in here 6 months ago and had a bad experience. We want to do this for you.”
In truth, we did have a bad experience; a horrible experience. A manager I had never seen before was there; and the serving staff was clearly the “B” team. Everything – absolutely everything – had been off.
But the manager had made it right… he had done all of the ‘correct’ things… he apologized profusely. He ‘comped’ most of the food. He couldn’t have done more. And, in fact, we had returned to this restaurant many, many times in the intervening months with nothing but wonderful experiences.
I graciously accepted the waitress’ kind offer. Then I looked across the room to catch the eye of this manager, who I hadn’t seen since that fateful night. I motioned him over to the table.
I thanked him… and then told him that I was curious about his reasoning… I do a lot of leadership training; I consult on the creation of corporate culture. What prompted him to make this offer… especially after he had gone out of his way to satisfy us so many months ago?
“We’re not interested in one-offs,” the manager said. “We don’t target the occasional customer. Our mission is to create customers for life.”
Wow. How’s that for a mission statement?
The husband-wife team of Jim and Maria Kennedy run Atlantic Sea Kayaking, the premier adventure kayaking and walking-tour company in Ireland. Over a glass of wine one night, I asked Jim about his company’s culture… about his mission.
“If our customers don’t go away from our trips saying that they had the best experience of their lives, Maria and I think that we have failed.”
OMG. That sounded like an audacious mission. Until I looked at the Kennedy’s trip reviews and mentions in places like the Wall Street Journal. They deliver on their promise.
Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame is passionate about his business. But it’s never been about selling shoes. Hsieh is legendary for his company’s customer service. And the title of his book states his core mission: Delivering Happiness.
When Hsieh started his company, he felt so strongly about this mission – and about the culture he wanted to create – that he offered to pay his new hires to quit after they had completed their training period. He wanted to suffuse his company and surround himself only with people who were passionate about what he was really selling.
Whether accountants, lawyers, consultants, financial advisors, coaches, health care professionals, mechanics, artists or parents; whether in food service, kayaking or shoes; we are all in sales. And whether you’re selling a widget or a product, a service or an idea, it is virtually impossible to differentiate yourself from the competition. You get lost in the noise of the marketplace. Everyone’s got something similar; and you can never compete on price.
When all you’re selling is the ‘thing,’ you’ll never break out from the pack. But when you delight; when you create an amazing experience for your customers and clients, they will remember you… for life.
What is it that you are (really) selling?