Recently, my wife and I spent a lovely weekend at the Boonville Hotel which highlighted some key principles for delivering a great customer experience.
First, a little background, Boonville is located in the Anderson Valley wine area of Northern California – a beautiful location for a laid back weekend. With only 10 rooms, it is like you are a guest in a country mansion. The ambiance is fantastic but the people are what make’s the stay so pleasurable. Everyone is genuinely friendly, not contrived but genuine and relaxed. It is clear from the start they you are welcome guest. The staff has an uncanny ability to greet you without intruding, whether are reading in the library or enjoying a glass of wine in the garden.
Now to the dinner. First off, it is prix fixe on the weekend with no choices. Shouldn’t the customer have a choice? Not in this case. Chef/proprietor, Johnny Schmitt pulls together a culinary experience that exploits the best ingredients available, many coming directly from the hotel’s garden. Rather than choose menu items, you are lead through a delightful tasting experience.
So what are the customer experience lessons from the Boonville Hotel?
- Hire people who are passionate about what they do.
- Let employees be themselves and give them roles, not tasks.
- Don’t be afraid to engage customers and don’t be afraid to let your personality and expertise shine through.
- Set the stage, be there for customers, but let them be themselves.
Certainly, this is easy if you have a small establishment but it doesn’t happen by chance. On a larger scale, it reminds me of the Container Store. So time ago I interviewed a clerk and she reflect on the training and culture the company creates by saying, “do you know how great it feels to really be able to help a customer?” While the size of the organization matters, the emotional engagement of employees matters more.