Adding Elegance to the Experience


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We checked in to the Lake Lure Inn. Build in 1927, the antique North Carolina hotel served as command central for the making of the movie Dirty Dancing. You can now stay in the Patrick Swayze Suite or the Jennifer Gray Suite. Furnished with exquisite period furniture with meticulous attention to detail, guests feel elevated, enchanted and enriched.

We had dinner in their lovely Veranda Restaurant overlooking the full moonlit lake only a stones through away from our front-row table. The staff was all locals from the rural small NC mountain town. They reached way beyond their plain heritage in a noticeable effort to create a sense of elegance. After seating us at our reserved table, the maitre de presented our menus, wine list, and graciously said, “Hope ya’ll enjoy”–not a phrase you’d hear at a five-star Boston restaurant. Nevertheless, we felt very special. There was an earnest effort to take the experience much, much higher than Nettie’s Diner down the street.

Why can’t every service experience be a Lake Lure Inn moment? The difference between the Inn and Nettie’s Diner was primarily a deliberate attempt to upgrade the experience. Someone decided that this classy hotel setting should have an equally classy experience. Knowing they could not afford to import a Ritz-Carlton Hotel trained wait staff, they entrusted their valuable reputation to young people recruited from the local Burgers and More. And, it absolutely worked.

The next morning we were in too much of a hurry to wait for their Sunday brunch with eggs florentine, country ham and mountain trout. So, we stopped at Nettie’s for scrambled eggs, bacon, grits and biscuits. The food was just as we expected—nothing out of the ordinary. But, the menu, the hostess and the waitress all needed upgrading; the window beside our table needed polishing; and the plants needed watering. As we looked at the Lake Lure Inn in the distance, we suddenly realized that had we first stopped at Nettie’s it might not have seemed so non-elegant. The Lake Lure Inn had altered our service expectations and Nettie’s would never be the same again…nor, would any other service provider.

What would it do to your competitors’ edge if you added elegance to your customer’s experience?

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group ( and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.


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