I’m not sure what the opposite of the power of positive thinking is – but I think we’ve found it. Based on the powerful feedback you’ve given in the last three weeks; I’ve hit a nerve. You are cancelling Sky, seeking better mobile deals, chasing better treatment from a range of existing providers… I’m pretty stoked the blog’s encouraged expectation for exceptional service and respect for your dollar.

The real message here is

  1. As a customer you have the power and should expect exceptional service
  2. As a business owner, Exec member or marketer to succeed in today’s market you only have one choice and that is to be exceptional

But hey, this isn’t just a Westpac* bash… it’s often easier to criticise than to acknowledge quality. It’s equally important to spread the good service word.

Euro has been near the top of Auckland’s dining tree for many years. When I was invited there for lunch a couple of weeks back, I was excited. The joint’s just had a big refit and relaunch – I wanted to see how this had affected their delivery

Now, as you know I’m a pretty straightforward sort of bloke, and like many of you have a distaste for unnecessarily fussy service. Nothing ruins a good dining vibe faster than a pretentious maitre d, or worse, service staff who cannot read your mood.

At Euro I needn’t have worried – our waiter Spencer was on top of his game. He clearly loved his job, wanted us to enjoy the food, and knew we were appropriate customers to have a bit of cheek and humour with. Combined with the food, this made the experience exceptional.

For anyone not knowing Euro, it’s one of Auckland’s top restaurants, serving up dishes like:

Green gazpacho, house made ricotta, pickled cucumber, focaccia toast.

Seeing this I knew I wanted it. I just wasn’t entirely sure what it was, beyond cold tomato soup. Spencer understood, and preceded to explain the dish in language he knew I’d get. The gazpacho not only lived up to the billing, it was so good I’ve not stopped raving about it (and yes, I’ve just checked the menu and it’s still available!).

The point is, Euro stays on top through a winning combination of fantastic food and fantastic service. So here’s the thing. Euro shares owners with my favourite restaurant – The Jervois Steakhouse. It’s the same basic premise… great food with great service, except with steak, and instead of Spencer you’ve got Peter (though sadly no longer – Peter recently retired).

In a notoriously difficult sector, it’s no surprise the group closest to Nourish’s blend of great food and great service is the Hip Group. While Nourish are at the top end of town, Hip Group have successfully colonised casual café bistro fare

Hip Group cafes are recognisable by their volume of staff. It may cost in margin, and drive slightly higher pricing – but great service is at the heart of their success. The formula travels well – it’s not just a big city, big expectation thing. Two years ago they took over a run down Waihi beach pub. By the time they were finished, we had the Waihi Beach Hotel. Like many I feared for their sanity – how would an expensive fit out and overhead structure survive sleepy beach town winters? Two years later I get it – people come from near and far for that great food/great service experience.

As consumers it’s our obligation to make noise when we are treated badly. But just is important is celebrating the good stuff. We need to push great businesses, and ultimately vote with our wallets.

In 2010 travel consumer bible Lonely Planet celebrated their one hundred millionth sale. How did they do that in only ten years? This quote inviting consumer feedback from their legions of users gives a good pointer:

‘Things change – prices go up, good places go bad, bad places go bankrupt – so if you find things better or worse, recently opened or long ago closed, please write and tell us’

Consumer feedback should be king for any business, and never more so than in our current social media obsessed age.

It’s not just me who thinks this – here are a few stats on the subject courtesy of The Return on Behaviour Magazine

  • A dissatisfied customer tells between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  • Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  • Price is not the main reason for customer churn, that would be overall poor quality of customer service – Accenture global customer satisfaction report 2008
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience – Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner
  • 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back – 1stFinancial Training services
  • For every customer complaint, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent – Lee Resource
  • It costs 6 – 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one – Bain & Company
  • A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related than price or product related – Bain & Company
  • Dissatisfied customers whose complaints are taken care of are more likely to remain loyal, and even become advocates, as those that are ‘just’ customers – Strauss & Seidel

Oh – and if anyone queries my endorsements of JSH and Euro… I’m always available for a cheeky research lunch…!


* Westpac did make contact during the week. They sent me an eDM explaining how wonderful their new ad with Richie McCaw is.

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