Why conversations create sales

Rather than the usual Caffe Nero/Costa visit today, I took my Sunday latte-with-a-cake business elsewhere to a little independent bistro called Antonio’s. Oh dear…!

It’s such a shame as they seem nice people, but the owners have totally failed to create a distinctive customer experience (other than a non-experience). What do I mean?

  • Uninspiring shop front. No clear identity or brand.
  • Dimly lit, but not so it creates mood – just blah.
  • Style-less furniture, flooring and decor. No colour. Nothing remarkable on the walls.
  • No mouth-watering cakes on display – just a few mince pies covered in clingfilm.
  • Background music you can just about hear, but not so you can tell what it is.
  • Old-fashioned laminated menus on tables, chalk board 30% full.
  • I was the only customer there (not surprisingly), although 3 tables came in as I was there.
  • No attempt to open a conversation, purely re-active order taking by the staff.
  • Very pleasant, very polite but absolutely NOT creating an experience.

A couple came in, sat down and looked at the menu.

Waitress:  What can I get you?
Couple: 2 coffees please
Waitress: Anything else?
Couple: No thanks.

Another couple entered (bit of a rush now), both about 55 with a cheery disposition and hope in their eyes – clearly there for the first time.

Waitress asked them what they’d like. They asked about the special advertised in the window. She reeled off the details. They thought about it, and ordered the lasagne and a pizza and the wine that came with the deal.

Waitress smiled and walked off.

Now I’m sure the food is very nice, maybe the wine too. My coffee was perfectly acceptable. But what’s missing here (apart from a decent infrastructure) is the creation of an enjoyable EXPERIENCE. And that comes partly from the staff engaging in conversation with the clients. Just a bit of gentle banter from the waitress:

“Cold outside today!” (you create warmth in the cafe – the antidote)
“Isn’t it nice to take the weight off your feet” (clients have heavy bags after some hard shopping).
“Now what can I get you to warm things up a bit?”

It might continue…

Clients: Mmm, not sure really. We haven’t eaten yet…What do you recommend?

Waitress: Well, the chef’s just cooked a delicious lasagne and we have a lovely Tuscan wine that goes beautifully with it – it’s part of the lunchtime deal for weary shoppers! Sets you up for the day.

Something like that…it’s easier when the staff are genuinely interested in people. Making a bit of a fuss about them, making them feel welcome, taking an interest in them – all this contributes to creating a customer experience. It’s even better if the staff appear to enjoy working there and have a knowledge of (and passion for) what they’re serving.

If there’s some points of interest in the cafe too, that helps. An unusual print on the wall, something quirky on the table – some talking point to trigger engagement with the customer.

These cafe/restaurant visits are so much more than just the consumption of food and beverage. It’s about how you make the customer FEEL. Did you leave them with a positive memory? Are they in a better place now than when they walked in? Have you really enhanced their day? Have you done something that’s worth them talking about to others?

Our Speakeasy concept was originally designed to help people develop a more natural, conversational style of presenting. But it’s also a really powerful principle in the customer service world, opening up a customer, making them feel valued and generating new opportunities for BOTH sides to profit.

Mary Portas isn’t the only one who gets exercised about such matters!

Facebook comments: