Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Delivering the Ultimate Customer Experience

A while back, I wrote about trust and the customer experience. Trust is just one aspect of the customer experience. I'll add three more attributes and then share an experience that exemplifies all of the above.
  1. Personalized
  2. Consistent
  3. Memorable
The catalyst for this blog post comes from my recent experiences at my favorite restaurant, The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar in Tustin, CA. I'll share with you my last two experiences there, and you'll quickly understand why I call out those three attributes as being key to delighting customers and creating great customer experiences.

I've been to The Winery Restaurant four or five times in the last year or so, and every time I've been there, I know exactly what to expect:  friendly and professional staff, impeccable service, excellent food, relaxed atmosphere, and the best wine. It's always the same, and I love that!

My birthday was at the end of December. My parents were visiting for the holidays, and I was excited to take them to The Winery Restaurant for my birthday dinner. It's not the type of place they normally dine at; e they live on a farm in Ohio, and there aren't any restaurants like this close by! In the middle of the meal, my dad said, "The next time we come here..." Aha! Hooked! My parents enjoyed it, too. I knew they would.

When you enter The Winery Restaurant and announce your arrival at the front desk, the staff is warm and inviting. I've never had to wait more than a minute or two to be seated. Once seated, if you're wearing black pants, they immediately replace the white napkins on the table with black ones, which I love. Until last night, they have always seated me (and whoever I'm with) at the same table (now "my table," perhaps?), and we've always had the same waiter (Kevin). Kevin remembers me by name and, since he has previously taken the time to ask questions to get to know me, he now asks about my situation, my kids, etc. every time I'm there, even if it's been months in between visits. 

On my birthday, Kevin wasn't our main waiter, but he came by and chatted and helped out if our main waiter was busy. We literally had a team of people waiting on us, including the restaurant's Managing Partners, William Lewis (who is also the Sommelier) and JC Clow. When we ordered wine, William presented it, gave us a little bit of history on the wine, and poured it. After the meal, we had coffee with our dessert, and JC got the cups and saucers and poured our coffee!

The food was amazing, as always. It was plated wonderfully (if you're an Iron Chef America fan, I gave 20 points for plating!), and the portions were perfect. There's a bit of presentation that goes into the offering of the condiments, including various flavors of salt. (It's not pretentious, just fun.) Our main waiter was honest about what she preferred and didn't like about the food. I like to get those kinds of candid recommendations, as it makes it easier to think about what you probably don't want to order.

When you make your reservations or when you are first seated, they ask if you are celebrating a special occasion. Since they had learned that it was my birthday, they prepared a beautifully-plated and personalized dessert for me. It was really a surprising treat and a fun way to end a fabulous evening. 


Before we walked out the door, I texted my best friend and told her we'd be going there for her birthday. It was a memorable evening for us all. When I called my mom yesterday to tell her I was having dinner there again for my friend's birthday, I could hear perhaps a hint of "wish I was there" in her response. 

And that brings me to last night's experience. My friend and I were both so excited to go to The Winery Restaurant for dinner. As I mentioned earlier, I always know exactly what to expect there, and last night did not disappoint. The experience was no different from the previous times we'd been there. And that's a good thing!

I learned a little more about The Winery with this latest visit, particularly how they are able to personalize the experience. Normally I make my reservations through Open Table; however, Open Table didn't show any availability for the time that we wanted to go, so I called the restaurant directly to make the reservation. They asked me for my last name, and before I even finished spelling it, they said, "Annette, right?" Aha, I'm in their computer. Well, their secret is safe with me. Personalization makes it that much better!

We sat at a different table and had a different waiter last night, but Kevin was there and stopped by to say "hello" and to chat briefly. He remembered my last visit a month ago, who I was with, why I was there, etc. Love that.

The Winery also does other unexpected things. There's a certain salad my friend and I had two years ago that they no longer have on the menu. We asked about it, as we'd done in the past, and they made it for us!  They removed rules (in this case, a menu) from constricting the customer experience. They did the unexpected! Give the customer what she wants.

The service was amazing. My water glass was never empty, and neither was my wine glass. They anticipated my needs, and I never had to ask for anything. And, of course, there was a lovely birthday dessert, beautifully plated, for my friend at the end of the meal. It was another memorable evening!

I can say without a doubt that I am a raving fan of The Winery Restaurant! If you have time, visit their website; you'll see that the experience begins there. And if you're ever in the OC, have dinner at The Winery Restaurant. You won't regret it!

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