When is the customer journey complete?



Each day of business, we watch countless numbers of guests leave the restaurant. When we wind down and close the doors at the end of the day, what happens next? Did we deliver on our promise? Were we true to the core of our mission?

If this mission is to create the best possible customer experience, then the customer’s journey must arrive towards a measurable goal which gives the necessary feedback we need to keep the business on track.

For restaurant management, how is this measurable goal defined? Is it when a guest pays the check? Is it when they leave the restaurant and somebody at the host stand says “thank you”? Is it when the guest posts a public review on a website? Is it all or none of the above?

For the guest of the restaurant, without a clear destination for them, there is no true satisfaction, there is no plot, and there is no purpose. Without purpose, potential business wanders in search of a home where deeper levels of meaning can take root.

There’s a built-in cycle

The only way to know is to have a program in place that completes each customer journey by moving them towards a new starting point of meaningful engagement:

These examples both conclude and renew the customer journey. They are setup so that response rates are trackable. They show leadership that a loop has been closed, and a new one has begun.

Here is why this is so important: it is our human need to contribute. We instinctively want to give back, to return, to cycle, to repeat, to teach, and to express a form of generosity.

By engineering a cyclical customer experience that welcomes – that anticipates – our guests’ need to contribute, we open a different kind of door for them. This door allows our guests to return to us and give us something we need to be successful: their input.

Let’s return one more time to the humorous Real Actors Read Yelp series to see how this plays out:

When this reviewer’s efforts to give back, according to his perception, weren’t appreciated, it hurt. While the reviewer may seem over-dramatic in his expectation of how the manager should have responded, we’re exploring some of the deepest parts of what makes us human. Of course “technically” from the restaurateur’s perspective, nobody probably did anything wrong here. But truth is in our perceptions. And when it comes to what we perceive, black and white has little relevance. Emotion has relevance.

It’s likely the manager wasn’t rude at all, was happy for the feedback and had a fire somewhere. But this shows just how fine the line can be. It shows that what we’re serving to people, deep down, is not about food.

This reviewer wanted to feel appreciated for giving back. And what’s behind this? Significance.

As people, we all need to give. It makes us happy. It’s fulfilling. We especially want to give-back when we feel like we’ve received something of value. This very act facilitates a sense of purpose that money can’t buy, and is far more valuable. As a business, when we don’t have a clearly defined route to know how to receive, there’s something left undone for our guests. For them, it’s unfulfilling. For the restaurant, it’s overlooked opportunity that’s always there.

Engineering this final, and most important route back to us, is just as important as menu engineering, if not more-so.

We all need to give

We began this series on the idea of hospitality, on service, on generosity and on being good stewards of other people’s time and money.

If we’ve fulfilled our promise, then nature does something amazing for us. She returns what we’ve sent. This is powerful.

This is where the restaurant’s own cycle of growth emerges: as a recipient of each guest’s need to contribute, we can collect good information that allows us to measure what we’re good at, and what needs work.

The customer journey is completed when we’ve fulfilled our promise and they’ve returned back to us and we’ve received them.

Exactly how the customer journey is completed is up to each restaurant and may even vary throughout the year. Like any other area of the restaurant, experimenting with ways to see what produces the best results is an ongoing process. But, the outcome should always be the same:

  • Inspire guests to return whenever possible
  • Inspire guests to be a brand advocate
  • Inspire guests to give back to us

Repeat guests and word-of-mouth business are the most dependable ways to outlast trends, competition and other factors that shorten the lifespan of a restaurant.

Expect to receive praise

If today, all team members focused on expecting and then receiving praise for a job well done, would anything change?

What might be different in the dining room if each server openly expected to answer the phone and receive a compliment for five star service? How would they respond? What would be adjusted in the kitchen if everybody behind the line expected to answer the phone and receive the highest compliments for the way they prepared and plated the food? What if the guest was to walk back into the kitchen and personally thank the chefs? If this was the expectation, would appearances change? What about language? How about the positioning of the mats? Or posture or aprons?

There’s an endless list of subtleties that come to light when thinking about how we may look to the outside world when we’re visited unexpectedly for a compliment. Why? Because we then want to be that compliment. It’s in all of our nature to not want to disappoint.

If each and every team member of the restaurant does not show up to work each day with a mindset to receive praise directly from each guest, then what is it they may be hiding from? Are they confident and proud to answer that call? Are they ready to complete the customer journey?

Next: Conclusion – The Spirit of Hospitality