Some of you may know that Mark and I adopted a new puppy, Riley, a toy Aussie. Nearly 5 months old and all of 7 pounds, he’s quickly become the center of our daily life. The advice we get from everyone is “take him everywhere.” And we do. Austin is an extremely dog-friendly town. People take their dogs nearly everywhere. Being dog-friendly has become a customer experience (CX) expectation. For the most part, we’ve had good experiences wherever we’ve taken him. This article shares a story that illustrates what it means to exceed customer expectations and provide a truly memorable positive customer experience that will result in customer loyalty and competitive differentiation. 

Do You Provide a Better Customer Experience than Your Competitors?

Recently, we made plans for a Texas hill country outing and made online reservations for lunch and dinner about 2 weeks out in the towns we planned to visit. In each reservation, we requested outdoor seating and noted we had a puppy among the party. Both restaurants confirmed our reservations. 

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Imagine our surprise when mid-day of our outing, the restaurant where we had dinner reservations called and said, “is your dog a service dog?” We said, “no, per our reservation we noted, he’s a puppy.” The caller said, “then you cannot bring him. You will need to cancel your reservation.” We’re 92 miles from home, so there’s no turning back. So, cancel we did.

It would have been nice if this restaurant’s website had some information about “only service dogs” allowed. Even so, we expected at least two things. First, when we made the reservation online, a reply that would have said, something about “only service dogs” allowed. Second, a call sooner than the day of dinner. At a bare minimum, every organization must meet its customers’ experience expectations. Otherwise, future business and reputation become at risk. 

customer-centric, customer centricity, customer loyalty, customer experience, CX, journey map, experience map, differentiation, marketing effectiveness, growth, customer service, customer success, scenario analysisCustomer experience is the entire experience through which we satisfy customers’ needs and create value. Customer experience is comprised of various touchpoints a customer has with an organization. Poorly managed touchpoints can become critical breakpoints, driving potential and existing customers to your competitors. And that’s exactly what we did. We looked for an alternative restaurant for dinner.

This story illustrates this point and provides a lesson for every organization about the need for managing expectations and being responsive. Avoid creating breakpoints. 

A study by Bain revealed a significant difference in perceptions between what executives think about the experience and differentiation that they provide customers, versus what customers think about the experience that they receive. They found that while 80% of companies believe they deliver “super experiences,” only 8% of customers agree.

After a little bit of searching, we found an alternative restaurant that looked like a good fit. We called them and let them know we understood we were making a last-minute request. They said, “if we could be there before the dinner rush, they’d make it work.” An excellent first touch point. 

We said, “we are 40 miles away and on our way.” They said, “ok.” Off we went. We arrived at the Rails Café at the Depot just as they were opening for dinner.

Do Your Touchpoints Create a Differentiated Experience? 

Here’s a quick overview of the initial touchpoints that created a stellar customer experience. Consider how well your organization delivers on the following touchpoints and what if anything you could do better or differently to achieve differentiation for the experience. customer-centric, customer centricity, customer loyalty, customer experience, CX, journey map, experience map, differentiation, marketing effectiveness, growth, customer service, customer success, scenario analysis

  1. We were graciously welcomed and seated by the owner. How well does your organization welcome existing and new customers? What is your onboarding process?
  2. Various servers came out to greet Riley. Do your customers know all the members of the team that support them? 
  3. Drinks were ordered and a dog bowl with water was delivered promptly. And we began to relax. They brought our menus and Sean the server said, “would you like to see the dog menu?” “You have a dog menu?”, we said in surprise. They said, “Yes of course.” Now, we’ve had Riley for a few months, and he’s been eating out about three times a week as part of his socialization. This was the first time we’d been offered a dog menu. We said, “Sure.” We had come prepared with food for Riley, which we set aside. Riley enjoyed a main course and dessert. What pleasant surprises do you deliver that exceed customer expectations?

We may not make it back to a restaurant that is nearly 150 miles away, but we did write a glowing review. We hope the review will bring them even more business and differentiation.

And that’s the value of exceeding expectations when it comes to customer experience. Customers increasingly base purchasing decisions based on experience. A study by Salesforce found 80% of customers said the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, 72% expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and 57% have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.

I’d like to think that Rails Café had performed some scenario analysis and considered the possibility that people would want to bring their dogs. It’s clear they gave considerable thought as to how they would handle such a scenario. Their management of the touchpoints created more than a positive experience; it’s also giving them a competitive advantage and customer loyalty. What customer scenarios do you need to plan for that will give you customer loyalty and a competitive advantage? 

A CX Map Enables an Outstanding Customer Experience 

customer-centric, customer centricity, customer loyalty, customer experience, CX, journey map, experience map, differentiation, marketing effectiveness, growth, customer service, customer success, scenario analysisThere’s a lesson from the second restaurant too. And that’s the lesson of going beyond the basics. Customer experience in some ways is table stakes. Bringing your dog to a restaurant in Austin has become the norm. This restaurant went above and beyond to exceed expectations and achieve differentiation, from saying yes, the day of, to where they sat us (we had a lovely table), to how they greeted and treated Riley, to having a dog menu.

They appeared to have a clear handle on the touchpoints associated with the experience. Every organization can do so as well. The first step is to create a CX map. Customer experience maps are comprised of touchpoints. A CX map serves as an opportunity to achieve competitive differentiation for your organization, which in turn leads to better word of mouth and customer loyalty. 

P.S. Riley said the dessert bones were delicious. 

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