Thursday, June 28, 2007

View from the loo at Ghiradelli Chicago

At the Ghirardelli store in Chicago, shoppers are greeted with a bright, cheerful, and consistent look. What happens when you decide to use their bathroom, which is through the doorway on the right?

Hmmm. Seems clear that this wasn't thought through as a public space. Homemade signs are always an indicator that something isn't working and employees are trying to fix a problem.

The bathroom is themed and lovely. (If this were my shop, I would buy white or yellow hand soap, so as not to clash with the strong palette, or choose an opaque soap dispenser. But I digress.)

When you open the door of the bathroom, this is what you see:

This could easily be covered with a hinged, framed print mounted on the wall like a cabinet door.

They do get lots of Experienceology points for meeting customers' comfort needs and making a bathroom available.

Tip of the day: Make sure any "back of house" spaces are dressed for public view. You don't have to spend a . Think through all views that customers have through doors or other vantage points. Make sure every angle shows your business to its best advantage.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Reinventing the pizza place

How do you rethink something as common as pizza?

If you're in San Diego, you can create something evocative of another city. New York Giant Pizza and Pasta, on India Street, is based on the look of the New York subway system.

It's designed by Suji Allen. Anyone who has lived in New York will appreciate the details.

I love how the menu is divided into "stations."

Tip of the day: You can create a fresh take on an old favorite through design and execution. Then it's up to you to make the experience one that's worth returning to.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Spa Ariel: Filled with sensation

In Chicago I visited Spa Ariel in the South Loop for a massage. Love the first impression of a bright, airy space with Moroccan-inspired lighting.

Walking towards the back, this lovely waiting area offered sound and visual sensory stimulation.

I was asked to wait here, and offered water with cucumber slices or tea. I opted for tea.

Looking up, I noticed the richly-painted ceiling and more beautiful lighting.

My scented tea, with honey, and more lovely details.

My massage therapist, Gregg Gonzales, greeted me with a warm, open smile and provided a fantastic massage. He works here Wed-Sat but also has a corporate chair massage business called Discover Escapar. I highly recommend him if you're in Chicago.

Spa Ariel is a great example of my Sensation step in action (see more about my 8 steps to great customer experiences here). Their attention to detail and professional staff made a wonderful impression and I will definitely visit again when I'm in Chicago on business. I took five of Gregg's cards with me and passed them along to local friends, so he benefited from my word-of-mouth advertising.

Tip of the day: Think about ways you can increase the sensory experience you offer, even if you don't run a business like a spa. Appealing to all five senses is one way to make your offerings more memorable.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Behind the scenes at the Hilton... art!

One of the things I talk about in my book and workshops is the importance of an empowered staff in creating a great customer experience. If you go behind the scenes (on purpose or by chance), you can learn a lot about how the business or institution treats its front-line staff, which is reflected in the kind of customer experience that's happening out front.

Kudos to the Hilton Chicago. I wandered into the staff elevator foyer in search of the ice machine and was so impressed with these wonderful paintings.

Instead of a dreary, drab, beat-up area—as so many of these are—they had taken the time to paint these wonderful murals.

I didn't find out who was responsible, but it feels like the front line staff members did this themselves, or had a lot of input, which makes all the difference. They feel like actual portraits of real people, not corporate feel-good-or-else slogans.

It made me smile being in there and I assume it has that effect on the staff members as well.

Tip of the day: Empower your staff to enliven and personalize their spaces. Paint is cheap. Buy the pizza. Watch what happens out front.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fine wines and... cocktail weenies?

I remember this store from living in Chicago in the 80s and 90s. Warehouse Liquors has changed with the South Loop, now providing a selection of over 800 wines.

What caught my eye was the juxtaposition of "wine tasting" and the array of canned meats and yellow mustard just below.

The interior of the store is beautiful, with an old pressed tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, and high-quality shelving.

So what's up with those cocktail weenies? The store caters to local businesses, loft owners, and the huge number of Columbia College students who stop in for munchies.

Tip of the day: Rotating shelving could allow the store owner to easily showcase different items at different times of day: munchies for the student crowd, then high-end cheeses, crackers, salsas, and olives for the loft owners stopping in to shop for a chic party. Otherwise these items send a conflicting message that might be affecting their sales.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Customer experience on a Budget

When I was in Chicago, I rented a car from the (independent) Budget Rent-A-Car location on South Wabash. Not only was the staffer efficient and friendly, they offered the following amenities in their tiny storefront location.

Self-serve gourmet flavored coffee, for free. Beats that burned-pot flavor most places have.

A kiosk where you could get directions, find hotels, and print your boarding pass.

Tip of the day: If you are thinking about the customer's experience, you can find all sorts of small ways to show people that you care. Note to the owners—fix the fluorescent light bulbs. Not only was it headache-inducing for waiting customers, it had to be hard on the staff person. You can't give good customer service with a migraine.

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