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Spreading the Gospel of Warm and Fuzzy

by julia • April 25

Great article in today's NY Times about the importance of not just satisfying customers, but thoroughly delighting them, so they will "rave about their experience and have no choice but to return." Danny Meyer, restauranteur extraordinaire, has built an empire of 11 outstanding restaurants around this idea, and is now teaching his approach to myriads of budding entrepreneurs in all industries with customers.

Mr. Meyer calls his approach the Virtuous Cycle of Enlightened Hospitality: Employees focus first on pleasing one another - creating a warm-and-fuzzy energy that fuels the staff as it tends to patrons, the community, suppliers and investors. "When you really take a perspective that the customer comes second, which is counterintuitive in a society that always puts the customer first, you also end up attracting stronger employees over time, which increases the odds that your technical and your emotional and hospitality performance are going to be competitive."

Mr. Meyer said hospitality will define the next cycle of the economy, as the art of making people feel important and cared for will become the critical edge against the competition. "It has now become almost impossible to distinguish your business based on innovation or execution for more than about two seconds," he said. "In this next economy, if you want to distinguish yourself as being the best and being the favorite business with your category, the only thing left is the hospitality experience."

Here is a guide to some phrases and techniques used in Danny Meyer's restaurants and classes:

A.B.C.D. Always be connecting the dots. A cue to employees to constantly collect bits of information about guests in anticipating their wants and needs.

AGENT Someone who is on the customers' side and works to help them get what they want.

D.H.C.D. Direct, honest, constructive dialogue.

51 PERCENTERS. Employees with the core emotional skills that make them capable of delivering hospitality: curious intelligence, a strong work ethic, self-awareness and integrity, empathy, a warm and friendly character.

49 PERCENT. The other 49 percent is his or her technical abilities.

GATEKEEPER. The opposite of an agent, someone who makes no effort to help.

HUG. The feeling of warmth and connection that starts with eye contact and genuine smiles from the staff.

LILY PADS. Just as the ripples caused by a stone tossed into a pond can disturb the frogs resting on their lily pads, staff are encouraged to prepare co-workers and customers when change is coming down the pike.

RICHEST. Respect, integrity, courtesy, humility, empathy, self-awareness and trust - values that employees should show when dealing with each other.

SKUNKING. Spraying contagious negative energy into the workplace.

JAZZ LEVEL. Showing a high level of excitement to be at work.

TURNING OVER ROCKS. Like a fisherman who determines which bait to use by looking under rocks to see what is hatching, staff members are encouraged to use conversations with guests to ferret out clues about them.

WRITING A GREAT NEXT CHAPTER. Recovering from a mistake or problem using the three A's - apologize, acknowledge and act.

We work hard to create a great customer experience at Beardwood&Co., and are not surprised by Danny Meyer's finding that it all starts with a strong internal culture of respect, thoughtfulness and appreciation.