London, Friday, July 9th
The London retail experience had been very insightful and rewarding. Some stores had simply been amazing and some had been interesting. At the same time, most stores were average or just boring. Josh was reflecting on what really made a store visit memorable. In some cases, new features and products had surprised him, and in others, it was the visual merchandising and store ambiance he had really liked.
The biggest lesson he had learned during his expedition, however, was the impact of people on his experience; and with every other visit, Josh realized more and more, that people bring the experience to life through small gestures, eye contact, genuine rapport, interested questions, passionate explanations, and more. This is what helps turn a service into a memorable experience. It applies to hotels, restaurants, cafés, museums, airports, airlines, ticket counters, taxis, travel agents, supermarkets, and bookstores, of course, Josh was thinking.
Another big insight that he had gained was that it wasn’t easy to be consistent. He had seen big differences the day before. One shopping street had completely different experiences not only from store to store, but also from salesperson to salesperson, and from waiter to waiter.
Josh realized that this wasn’t a new reality, but he had never been so aware of the inconsistency. Some people acted more like shift survivors than anything else, whereas others were truly passionate about their job. Some seemed not to be present all the time, while others were really switched on and fully engaged with customers and with what they needed. Josh realized that his customers most likely also experienced differences from salesperson to salesperson at Just Books, his own bookstore; with pros and cons.
Back at the hotel, Josh walked into a less than lively bar, so he decided to go back next door to the vivid ambiance of Bread&Care, just like the day before. It was still early and Marcia wouldn’t be back from her conference before 5 p.m. that afternoon. Josh decided to have something small to eat and walked toward the retail area of the store.
He noticed a group of staff (CAREmakers) in the midst of a lively meeting. They were having fun, were busy talking, and yet all of them greeted Josh when he passed by.
Amazing, Josh thought, the ambiance in this restaurant is much more consistent than in most places. And the combination of a truly personal connection, the retail area, and the restaurant space made him feel like never before.
One of the CAREmakers invited Josh to come in and choose a table. He ordered a beer and an organic lentil and avocado salad. David, one of the other team members, served his beer and asked him how he was enjoying London. “My colleagues told me you visited some of the London retail districts,” he continued.
Josh looked at the co-workers and noticed that none of them who had helped him earlier were actually present. Josh said he’d had a great time and that this restaurant was really outstanding. “The beer is on us,” David said smiling.
“Wow, thank you!” Josh responded. “That’s a pleasant surprise.”
“I hear you’re staying four days in London and this is already your third visit to us. That needs to be rewarded,” David continued vividly.
Josh opened one of the books he had brought on this trip and made himself comfortable in one of the colorful chairs. After reading a few pages, he thought of taking off his shoes and then gured this would be totally okay in such a personal and connecting space.
Josh had seen that one of the other guests wasn’t all too happy. She looked very sad and had been pampered by one of the CAREmakers. In a way, that was really touching, as if they were close friends.
Josh noticed that the staff brie ng was over. Alison, who had led the gathering and looked like one of the senior CAREmakers, walked by and greeted him. Josh greeted her in return and said, “I am very impressed with the service in your restaurant. In fact, this is probably the most personal experience I have had in restaurants or hotels in my life.”
Alison thanked him. “It is this kind of feedback from our guests that keeps us going,” she said, looking happy at the compliment.
“But where do you find such good staff?” John asked.
“Aaah,” said Alison in a playful manner. “That is part of our secret ingredients.”
Josh explained that he had a bookstore in Greenwich Village, New York and that he had no intention of starting up a restaurant. “So the secret is safe with me,” Josh said, playing along with Alison. “Can I offer you a drink while you share a bit of your secret sauce?” he asked. “After all, I just got a beer from one of your colleagues.”
“No, thank you,” Alison said. “I would be happy to tell you more in a moment. Just give me five minutes, please. I have almost finished my shift and just need to wrap up some paperwork.” Alison indicated some sort of checklist she was working on.
“Of course,” Josh said. “But if you’re done with your shift, by all means, have a great evening. And don’t worry about me.”
“No, I will be back in five or six minutes. Really,” responded Alison.
Josh couldn’t wait. This promised to be the most interesting part of his expedition.