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Even to the extent that I can spend $250 on dinner for my wife and I and walk out feeling like I got a good deal. We had dinner at the Capital Grille in Lombard, IL last night, and this morning, besides thinking how much I enjoyed the dinner last night I also thought, “Capital Grille really gets what this reputation thing is all about”.
Now we have been to Capital Grille before, and we know they have great food and service, but I hadn’t really thought about how the service experience and their reputation is integrated so well into their business, and that auto dealerships could steal some of these ideas.
Let’s start with our waiter, TJ Bozek. Either TJ really loves what he does or he is an academy award-winning actor. The smile never left his face the entire evening. When they mistakenly brought out the wrong two sides to us we let him know, and he brought the correct sides to us within two minutes, apologized, and let us know we could keep the other two sides (he explained with a smile, “it’s like in Monopoly, Bank error in your favor”). So they make a mistake, and he is smiling and joking about it, yet the mistake did not diminish the experience at all. He apologized, fixed the problem immediately, and moved on. He didn’t blame the other server, complain, or let it get him down, he just took care of it. I believe he sees his job not as a waiter who brings us our food, but as our sole link with the restaurant’s reputation and he is there not to serve food but to maximize our experience. How do the employees at your dealership see their job? Is their job to sell cars, or fix cars, or move the cars, or to maximize a customer’s experience at the dealership? Are they taking care of problems as efficiently, or do they pass them on for someone else to handle?
On a side note, when we sat down my wife asked TJ what the dozen or so silver stars on his lapel were for. He let us know he gets one when someone calls his manager to compliment the job he did. Imagine that. We continually talk about how important it is for dealers to constantly monitor their reputation and reviews that are online. TJ wears his reputation and reviews on his suit jacket for the world to see. It is important to note too, that TJ is not just building a 5 star reputation for Capital Grille, but he is building a 5 star reputation for himself. He understands the value to have people not only return to the restaurant, but come back and ask for him personally. Do your sales people track their personal reputation and reviews? Are they scoring themselves? Are they wearing their reputation on their jackets? Why Not?
TJ did other things to make this a great night, helping with alternate suggestions, not to upsell us, but again, to maximize our experience. At the end of the dinner he shook our hands to thank us for coming in, and handed me his card. I am trying to remember the last time (if ever?) that a waiter shook my hand at the end of the meal. Here I think it was just part of going above and beyond what we expect from that employee. Do your employees consistently go above and beyond? Do they find little ways they can surprise customers by going beyond what they expect?
With all the extra food we couldn’t eat everything, and so TJ wrapped it up for us. When we got home, I saw a card attached to the bag that read “We are glad you enjoyed your meal enough to take some home with you. Thank you for dining with us, we appreciate your business” and it was signed “Chef Mitch”.
I thought to myself “seriously? It’s just a doggie bag”, but there it is again, finding ways to surprise customers to make the experience unique. Is this something your service department can do? Possibly leave a card on the customer’s dashboard that reads something like “We appreciate you trusting us with your car ‘s oil change. We consider it a privilege to service your vehicle. Thank you for your business.” And then signed by the Service Manager? Do your customers really get how much you appreciate them?
I can get a great steak in a lot of places. Capital Grille surely understands this. They also understand that to differentiate themselves they can control the experience around the steak to set themselves above their competition. Are you selling the experience, or just selling steak?