Customer Service that Gives Food for Thought

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, then you will know that customer service is a major part of the experience.

The French Laundry Resturant

From anticipating the customer’s needs, making sure everyone feels welcome and appreciated and exceeding expectations, how you make the customer feel is a priority up there with the preparation and taste of the food.

Such an experience is to be had at The French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley, one of the highly regarded restaurants of chef Thomas Keller. Keller, who has a long list of accomplishments including seven Michelin stars across three restaurants, is also the first American male chef to be designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France.

Not only is Thomas Keller a legend in the world of haute cuisine, but his influence has also made its way into the entertainment industry. The kitchen from the Pixar movie ‘Ratatouille’ was inspired by the kitchen at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant, and the fastidious cutting and cooking movements of Remy (the beloved rat with a whisk and big dreams), were inspired by the very movements and mannerisms of Thomas Keller. The French Laundry is really what put Thomas Keller on the map and helped propel him to where he is today.

The French Laundry Experience

When you dine at the French Laundry, you are immediately struck by the atmosphere – the dimly lit ambiance, the perfectly placed handkerchiefs and flowers – and you begin to imagine the experience you’re going to have. Chef Keller sees something different. He sees “the hundreds of individuals dedicated and committed to you. Only you. You by yourself.”

It’s that intense focus on the diner’s experience that has helped define what success means for Keller. It’s not about the Michelin stars, recognition or awards, but rather, about creating meaningful memories for each guest. Thomas Keller actually goes out of this way to meet his guests (after they’ve eaten) to make their dining experience all the more personal, memorable and special.

According to Keller, one of the biggest compliments is when a guest comes to one of his restaurants and says…“Chef this reminds me of a wonderful experience I had at a restaurant in the South of France (or Paris, Italy, Spain etc)” He hopes that very same guest has a great experience at another restaurant and says “this reminds me of the French Laundry.” Therein lies the true meaning of success for Keller: he aims to be in the top five memories that a person has in a lifetime. What an ambition!

The French Laundry

The French Laundry restaurant, Napa Valley

Keller’s Very Simple Formula for Success

Keller’s winning culture is based on a very simple formula:

Cooking = ingredients + execution

Ingredients – He is maniacal about getting the best ingredients including the suppliers, the wine, the restaurant space, and the people you don’t see who make the restaurant run smoothly. He scours the earth for the best apples, butter, figs, hearts-of-palm and caviar that you can find. Every ingredient counts.

Execution – The soul of a restaurant is its people, and they must have passion and desire. They need to be trained and mentored so they have the confidence and courage to execute at the highest level. One of the mantras in Keller’s kitchens is to do just a little better than yesterday…and in doing so, as time goes by, each team member is able to really excel in their area of specialisation.

So What Can This Culinary Master Teach Us About Business?

If Keller sets out to have a place in a guest’s top five experiences of all time, why can’t a business approach customer experience with the same vigour and passion?  If someone were to ask your customers “who are the top five companies you can count on to deliver a great customer experience?”, wouldn’t you like your company to be among them?

If you consider the ‘ingredients’ in your customer’s experience, you might be inclined to think about think about the best web experience, the best chat experience, the best voice experience, etc. Each of those ingredients is critically important, but consumers don’t think in channels (e.g. “did I have a good web experience?”), they think in terms of the overall experience with your brand – “did I have a good experience with this company?”

There is nothing more frustrating for a consumer than to be transferred to an agent and have to repeat information because the channels are not connected. The best ‘ingredients’ will fail if they are not combined and blended in the right way.

In terms of execution, here are four key things you can do to create a compelling experience:

1. Create memorable moments – Thomas Keller once said, “Success is not about fame, fortune, recognition or awards. It’s about memories that we collect throughout our lives.” Are you creating those memories for your customers? Create a great experience for customers to make moments memorable and so help build loyalty.

2. Make it personal – You have a tremendous amount of data on your customers. Use these insights to let them know it’s all about them. Only them. Them by themselves. It’s amazing how many companies don’t take advantage of Big Data, or don’t understand how to use it.

3. Make it simple – Whether it’s purchasing a new product or service or getting support to resolve an issue, do you make it simple for customers to get what they need? In the world of customer service, the path of least resistance is the winning path. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to get things done.

4. Focus on intent – Forget the idea of channel-centric engagement (where most companies are today). Move to intent-driven engagement. This means using data to truly understand what your customers are trying to do, and responding accordingly. Leading companies are learning to anticipate and act on the customer’s intent across any channel in those moments that matter most.

This is what we see as the formula to deliver successful business outcomes and it can help you provide intent-driven experiences for your customers.

Keller defines leadership as “confidence + courage.” It means having the confidence and courage to step outside the norm and say “I’m going to do better. I’m going to create a new standard.”

Are you ready to create a new standard in customer experience?

About the Author

Scott HornScott Horn joined [24]7 in 2015 as the Chief Marketing Officer and brings over 20 years of global marketing experience with leading technology companies. Scott was a software developer for several years and holds both a BS in Information and Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

For more information, please visit: and follow @24_7_inc.

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