the podcast recap episode with aj & rory vaden

Ep 451: 5 Keys to Using Customer Experience as a Differentiator | Will Guidara Episode Recap

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Can small enhancements to your customer journey make a memorable impact?

Will Guidara, restaurateur, speaker, founder of creative hospitality agency Thank You, host of The Welcome Conference, and bestselling author of Unreasonable Hospitality, believes that any business can take ordinary transactions and turn them into extraordinary experiences.

In our most recent interview with Will, we took a deep dive into the valuable service and leadership lessons he’s learned throughout his restaurant career.

Today, we expand on that insightful conversation and share five keys to using customer experience as a competitive advantage.

From making people feel seen, heard, and welcome to taking a one-size-fits-one approach, this episode is full of practical advice that will make you reconsider the role that hospitality plays in your business and help you transform your approach to customer experience.

Tune in today!

Key takeaways from this episode

  • It’s not what you do but how you do it: how to shift your focus from product to people.
  • The value of identifying and elevating each of the touchpoints in your customer journey.
  • What it means to be audacious in your ambition but patient in your pursuit.
  • The benefits of taking a “one-size-fits-one” approach to customer experience.
  • Ways to create a culture of unreasonable hospitality in your organization!

Tweetable Moments

“You can compete not only in what you do but how you do it. That’s what customer experience is all about.” — @roryvaden [0:05:29]

“Let’s choose one touchpoint with our customers where we can [exceed their expectations, surprise them, and knock their socks off] – by simply overdelivering in an unexpected way on something that is normally trivial and mundane.” — @roryvaden [0:12:32]

“The more specific, the more terrific. One size fits one.” — @roryvaden [0:17:05]

About Will Guidara

Will Guidara is the founder of Thank You, a hospitality company that develops world-class destinations and helps leaders across industries transform their approach to customer service. He is also the former coowner of Eleven Madison Park. Under his leadership, the restaurant received numerous accolades, including four stars from the New York Times, three Michelin stars and in 2017 was named number one on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

In his latest book, Unreasonable Hospitality, he shares many of the lessons about service and leadership he learned over the course of his career in restaurants, and makes the case that any business can choose to be in the hospitality industry by taking ordinary transactions and turning them into memorable experiences.
 
He is also the co-founder of the Welcome Conference, an annual conference that brings together the best minds in the world of hospitality. A graduate of Cornell University, he has coauthored four cookbooks, was named one of Crain’s New York Business’s 40 Under 40, and is a recipient of WSJ. Magazine’s Innovator Award.

Links Mentioned

Will Guidara on LinkedIn

Will Guidara on Instagram

Will Guidara on X

Unreasonable Hospitality

Unreasonable Hospitality

Thank You

Welcome Conference

‘The secret ingredients of great hospitality’ by Will Guidara (TED)

Ep 56: Dominating the Customer Service Vertical with John DiJulius

AJ Vaden on LinkedIn

AJ Vaden on Twitter

Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden on LinkedIn

Rory Vaden on Twitter

Take the Stairs

Brand Builders Group

Brand Builders Group Free Call

Brand Builders Group Resources

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Stitcher

The Influential Personal Brand Podcast on Apple

RV (00:03): Well, I have done hundreds of podcast interviews over the years, and without a doubt, this is one of my all time favorite podcast interviews. Maybe, maybe my number one all time favorite was this interview I did with Will Guidara on his book and the concept of Unreasonable Hospitality. I love it so much. I agree with it. I believe in it. I underscore it. I, I I, I would add exclamation points to everything he said and say, this is what we want to be. This is what I want to be a student of. This is not only how I want people to think of Brand Builders Group when they do business with us and they talk about us. This is what I want people to think about us as people. And so we’re gonna talk about, I’m gonna share with you here in my, my own little recap of five keys to using customer experience as a differentiator and as a competitive advantage. RV (01:05): So this is important, right? Because if you, if you go back, go listen to this interview. If, I mean, if there’s one that you go back and listen to, go back and listen to this interview with Will, it is so good. But if you, if you go, okay, what do we do at Brand Builders Group? Part of what we do is we help people find their uniqueness so that they can exploit it in the service of others, right? That’s a huge part of what we do. That’s based on a quote that I learned from a gentleman named Larry Wingett. Well, finding your uniqueness, one of the benefits of that, one of the byproducts of it is that you separate yourself from all the other people who do something similar to what you do. And here, this, this story Will’s story and his content and his expertise is so relevant because he’s talking about what we typically teach in terms of how to differentiate yourself from the market is basically through your content and through your delivery and through your own stories. RV (02:06): But what he’s talking about is separating yourself from everyone through customer experience, meaning by changing the way that your customers interact with you, and more specifically the way that you interact with them, you can make them feel a certain way. And by doing that, that is going to separate you from everybody else that they could refer or do business with, or, you know, come back and, and be a repeat customer of. And so here’s five keys to doing this, and these mostly come directly from Will. So the first thing that he said that really hit me as I went back and reviewed this interview was again, if you, if you haven’t listened to it, go listen to it. But he was the co-owner of 11 Madison Park. So this is this very high end restaurant in New York, but he wanted to be the best restaurant in the world. And what he said was, RV (02:58): I decided that we weren’t going to compete by trying to be the best product in the world, meaning we weren’t gonna try to have the best food in the world necessarily. They knew they needed to have world-class food, but he picked a different area of the business customer experience. And he said, I wanted to compete on experience. The way that Will said it was, he didn’t wanna be unreasonable in the product, but he wanted to be unreasonable in how they treated people. And he defined it as unreasonable hospitality is targeting and zeroing in on the human desire for people to feel seen, cared for, and welcome. What a brilliant observation and what an intelligent insight to go. You can compete not only on, on what you do, but how you do it. That’s what customer experience is all about. It’s not just what you do. RV (04:01): It’s one thing to be innovative in what you do, which is its own separate conversation and also worth aspiring to. But there’s this whole other conversation, which I think is so often ignored, which is how you do it, how you do what you do, not just the expertise in, in the case of personal brands. This isn’t just about you becoming well known. And it’s not just about you producing insights that are better or more powerful or more poignant, or more sharp or more clear or more actionable than the other people who are in your space. It’s about your customers being made to feel a certain way as they encounter you, as they interact with you, as they exchange commerce with you, as they engage with your, your content or your events, or your products or your services. How do you make your customers feel? And that, to me is amazing to go. RV (04:58): I mean, there’s perhaps no more commoditized you know, space in the world than restaurants, right? People who serve food. There’s lots and lots of competition people who do that. So to be the number one restaurant in the world by choosing to not compete on the food now, now, amazing food was like the price of admission, right? So that had to be there. But to find this other point I thought was, was extremely, extremely powerful from a tactical standpoint. So that’s point number one, right? Is, is to be exceptional at making people feel seen, cared, and welcome. That’s how you, that’s the first key to using customer experience as a different, as a differentiator, be exceptional at making people feel seen, cared for. And welcome. Number two is to isolate all of the customer touchpoints, to audit all of your customer touchpoint. RV (05:55): So this is the tactical component of how to do this is go through you, your team and audit, and we’re gonna have our team do this at Brand Builders Group like this for us. This is where we’re at. This is perfect for where we’re at is going, how do we get to the next level, right? So part of it is being brilliant at the basics, mastering the fundamentals. Those have to be in place. Once you have those things, you go, okay, how do we go next level? This is, it is go, we need to audit. We need to, meaning, we need to think about, we need to document, we need to transcribe every touchpoint our customers have with us. And this isn’t that. You could do this in your marketing as well, but what I took from this interview from Will specifically is it’s actually once they become a customer, too often personal brands are overly consumed and worried about just getting new customers, attracting new customers, growing their reach, they’re following, signing up new people, and then they work so hard to bring this person in. RV (06:51): They make the sale, and then it’s like they basically forget about ’em. And it, they just kinda like, you know, the, it’s just fumes when it comes to delivering to their customers. And so they’re always having to constantly chase new customers and new business because they do such a crappy job of taking care of their past customers and their existing customers. And instead of over-delivering with their existing customers and letting their customers become their sales force to bring them new customers, they’re just focused on new business, then they, they make the sale and they kind of like deliver C minus work with their existing customers. And so they have to do the hard work of finding new customers versus letting their past customers become their sales force. Well, so how do you do that? You have to audit every touchpoint that you have with your past customers. RV (07:39): And the way that Will said it was, he said, you want to isolate them and then elevate them. Meaning, okay, let’s look at the list of every single interaction, communication touchpoint we have with a customer, and let’s figure out some of the ones that are, you know, routinely mundane and add creativity to them. So this is really a two-part process, right? It’s audit the steps, and then it is figure out how do we, how do you add creativity to certain ones? And you maybe can’t do all of them, but maybe you can do one or two or three. But to go, where can we take the routine, boring, monotonous experience that customers are used to having in their onboarding or in receiving their, you know, their invoice or in their welcome or, or maybe in their cancellation, or maybe it, it’s in their, their their you know, the first email they get or whatever, whatever it is, and going, how can we add creativity to this moment to make this moment magical? Creativity is what makes the moment magical. And thoughtfulness is what makes this magical. So that is RV (08:55): The second key to using customer experience as a differentiate differentiator, is to audit each touchpoint you have with your customers and add creativity where you can. Number three is to be audacious in your ambition, but patient in your pursuit. I loved that quote right from Will Gera in our interview together. And by the way, if you can’t tell, like, I’m so convicted on this, we are, we are sending this interview out to our entire, all of our employees at Brand Builders Group, right? We have dozens employees. This will be a mandatory listen for employees. They will be required to carve time out of their daily work schedule to listen to this interview as a condition of their employment here, because this is a place where we can do a better job. And what Will says is to be add audacious in your ambition, which is to basically, you know, set a high bar, but be patient in your pursuit. RV (09:56): And I think that is a key, a key here is to go, okay, I wanna have high goals and I wanna reach for, you know, something that feels maybe impossible or something that’s gonna stretch us, something that’s gonna push us, push us to our limits, and yet I’m gonna allow myself the grace of getting there slowly. I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna focus more on consistency than intensity. That’s one of my mantras from Take the Stairs, that consistency is greater than intensity. And so he’s just applying that same principle to the idea of customer experience to go, okay, one day we wanna be 11 Madison Park, right? Like, one day we wanna be Nordstrom, one day we wanna be, you know, whoever pick your, pick your, your brand that has incredible customer experience right? Now, we might not be able to get there, but let’s choose one touch point with our customers where we can really, really exceed their expectations, where we can surprise them, where we can knock their socks off, right? RV (10:55): Where we can really blow it outta the water by simply over-delivering in a very unexpected way on something that is normally trivial and mundane. So be audacious in your ambition, but be patient in your pursuit. Be slow and, and forgiving if it takes time to achieve this, right? You don’t do this overnight. It takes years and, and, and to transform your culture, right? Whether it’s your own personal mentality of service and hospitality, or if it’s, especially if you have a small team or a big team or a huge company, right? It’s gonna take time to transform the culture. And, and, and so you can’t do this overnight. You have to be patient in your pursuit. So I love that. The fourth thing is another principle that I believe in and share a value here with Will. Now, the way that Will said it is one size fits one, one size fits one rather than one size fits all. RV (11:58): So this is a key. This is, this is the next key. This is the fourth key to using customer experience as a differentiator. One size fits one. What does he mean by that? He means do something for your customer that is unique to them. Go out of your way to do something for them that is so hyper customized that they know it was only for them. It had to be just for them. It, it’s not something that you can standardize. Although you could maybe standardize the practice. It’s, it’s got to be something specific to them. And I’ll give you an example of this is a place where our team did a great job of this one of our early clients, that Brand Builders group was a gentleman named Kiir Weer, and Kiir was a client of ours for a couple years. RV (12:47): And we love Kiir and we, we, we loved working with him. And, and his story was, you know, he has this amazing story a heartbreaking in some ways that, you know, he had a boating accident, he was driving and he went to prison after one of his friends died in a boating accident when, when he was driving. And so when he got out of prison, he couldn’t get a job and he couldn’t get into any you know, like graduate schools. And so then you know, it goes on and years later, he becomes very, very successful and very wealthy. And he got into the graduate school of his dreams, and then he happened to graduate while he was a brand builders group client. And that was a big dream for him that he had sent many years in advance. RV (13:33): And our team noticed that. And we sent him a sweatshirt from that university, right? And it was just a special moment for him. He was super grateful because what, because why? He felt seen, he felt heard, he felt cared about. He felt like more than a customer, because he is that he, he he is that to us. He, he’s someone that we, he was one of our very first customers, right? Brand builder. He was one of the very first people who ever took a chance on brand builders group. And so he meant means a lot to us, meant a lot to us. And so we took a, a moment and some budget and some time to pay attention, notice this opportunity, and then to invest those dollars, a few dollars to do something for one of our original clients to make them feel special. That was transformational. We can’t operationalize that for everybody. Not all of our clients are, you know, have that story. Not all of them are graduating, you know, from, from the college of their dreams or the University of their dreams while they’re an active client of ours. So we can’t just operationalize that. And, and that’s the point, right? That’s the point that Will is making, is that one size fits one. The way that that we say it around here is the more specific, RV (14:50): The more terrific. If you wanna fe make somebody feel cared about, the more specific, the more terrific. It’s gotta be specific to their circumstance, specific to their timing, specific to, to their unique tastes and preferences. It’s not wrong to send everyone a gift on Christmas. But what’s more powerful is, like in this example of Keir or in the Dirty Water dog , you, you’ve gotta listen to Will Guerra’s dirty water dog story in the, in the interview, right? That dirty water dog story is a perfect example. I, if he served a, a hotdog, a New York City Street hotdog to every one of his customers, it would be a waste of time and it wouldn’t be impactful. But in, in that moment to that one person, it was so powerful, even though it literally cost like $2, it was so powerful. So the more specific, the more terrific one size fits one. RV (15:46): John de Julius is another past interview that we had here on this show. And, and he has a, his, his concept here is called Secret Service, and he’s been someone that’s been transformational in our career. Go, that’s another interview you should go back and listen to on this same topic, but the more specific, the more terrific Do something unique to that person is gonna be more powerful than doing the same thing for everybody at the same time. Really, really powerful. But the last thing, okay, so the fifth key to using customer experience as a differentiator is my favorite thing that Will said in the entire interview. And this was about creating an unreasonable hospitality culture. And he said this about his team. He said, our goal wasn’t just to inspire our people to be better at their job. Our goal was to inspire our people to be better human beings. RV (16:50): Our goal wasn’t just to inspire our people to be better at their job. Our goal was to inspire our people to be better human beings. Meaning to be better at seeing others, caring for others, making others feel welcome. That’s what hospitality is about. That requires you to be a better human. It requires you to be less self-centered and more service centered, less focused on you, and more, more focused on them. In order to have this moment of unreasonable hospitality, and, and in order to create this magical moment, you first have to be outside of yourself enough to be paying attention and listening. Not not just hearing what they’re saying, but listening for an opportunity to go there it is. Here is a, in this little moment, this, this little opportunity that has shown up that I can go a little bit out my way to make this person feel so special. RV (17:47): That’s what Unreasonable Hospitality is all about. And you can do that with a small budget. You can do that with a small team. You can do it with a, with a big budget and a big team. You, you know, will, I asked him that question and he said, well, you know, just the level of hospitality should probably match in some way the size of the bill. Right? And otherwise it’s not gonna be totally sustainable, but go over the top to do it. It’s not the price of the gift that matters, it’s the level of thoughtfulness. It’s the level of customization. It’s the hyper-specific nature of what you’re doing. That’s what makes people feel special. And this is how you do amazing customer experience. This is how you do amazing employee experience. And as a, as a husband and a family man, I can tell you guys, listen up. RV (18:40): This is, this is what, this is something I think a AJ does. An amazing job of this for me and for our boys, is she does things like that to make us feel special all the time. Men, we probably need to work a little harder at doing that for our kids and for our spouses, right? And, and for our, you know, the people who are important to us in our life is recognize these moments, these opportunities to do something magical for somebody else. It’s, it’s really, really transformational for them. So that’s what Unreasonable Hospitality is all about. Those are five keys to using customer experience as a different, a differentiator. Be excellent at making people feel seen, cared for, and welcome. Audit the touch points, and then add cre, add creativity. Be audacious in your ambition, but pa patient in your pursuit. Remember the more specific, the more terrific and inspire your people, not just to be better at their job, but to be better at being human beings. I loved it. I’m so inspired. Get the book on Reasonable hospitality. Go listen to the interview, share this recap. Share the interview with somebody who you know, who will appreciate it, and show some love to Will Guera online. If you get a chance, let him know that you heard him right here on the Influential Personal Brand Podcast. We’ll catch you next time.

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