Understanding the Customer

We were in New York on vacation recently. My wife, Barbara, is a fan of modern art, so MOMA was high on our list – plus I haven’t been since the big makeover.

So we do the art stuff – a lot of which I enjoy – even though the photography gallery was closed. But my first experience was being told that I couldn’t drink my coffee whilst browsing in the shop – the whole point was to be in there out of the biting cold – whilst I finished it. That set me in the right frame of mind! I saw someone refer to this as ‘shifting the mood’ and it can happen in an instant, and be for the most trivial of reasons. It doesn’t matter – you have lost me.

So my initial experience of MOMA was being forced to stand outside in the biting cold to finish my coffee. As an aside, (Barbara will tell you this is one of my stubborn traits) I prefer to spend time, and my money, in places that treat me as a mature, honest and caring adult human being. So I don’t shop in the local bookstore that also made me exit with my coffee. Ditto for those places that make me ‘check my briefcase’. If they think I’m a thief, they wouldn’t want to do business with me – they have already told me they think I’m dishonest – anyway would they? So I save them the trouble.

Back to the story of MOMA. I enjoyed the superb new building, I enjoyed the art and, as we view at very different paces, Barb I met at the appointed place at the appointed time. The decision was did we go out in the biting cold (you getting the idea that it was cold yet) or eat in the MOMA restaurant. We both value good food, great service and ambiance, especially on vacation, but decided to forego them as it was cold!

We hit the second floor cafe. A short line was in evidence (the first plus, I hate queueing), though i was less happy about the refectory style seating. The ordering easy, fast and the server pleasant. I was less impressed with the mandatory 10% tip included at a checkout before I had seen or experienced any service – I’m of the old school that a tip reflects the service. We were given a number and chose a bench. The system was sort of familiar, but different enough to be pondering ‘what’s next’. It was a delight to sit down and discover that the people who had developed the process flows and models for this high volume eatery had thought of that too. There was an explanatory piece on the table, advising what would happen (your food will arrive – desert a short while after the entre; if you want more food or wine, you can go to x and order with no line, etc). A very pleasant surprise. The server found us, a young man with a great attitude, service with civility and humor.

Altogether, the place impressed me. Someone had looked at the problems of eateries in such places, demolished most (all?) of the niggles and issues, put in place processes and workflows to make it work, and explained it to the customer. Then they had trained their people, all of whom were personable, professional and customer oriented. As we left, I felt refreshed, revitalized and very positive towards the whole experience. It changed my view of MOMA. I also thought that the 10% tip was too low.

A perfect example of understanding the Customer Experience.

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