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Life’s A Pitch

Robbie Barrgh says "Don’t just serve me, deliver me an experience, wow me, inspire me, and take me to a place that is more than having a drink". To serve somebody is to offer and deliver a product. The consumer world we live in today is one of product saturation. The only way one quality product can be sold over another is purely by the experience the retailer creates. For this you need service design.

To date there has been very little need for service design; product has always led the way in consumer and goods relationships. But now, with the emergence of consumer brands such as Selfridges and Apple, Whole Foods in the USA and the new Nissan showroom in Ginza, Japan, what we see is an experience not just service. Working with the brand gatekeepers and creative visionaries we can help bring together the ultimate experience.

In the society we live today where “me is more important than you”, where “cash is flowing and time is short”, where “education with entertainment” rules, where “self pampering” is unashamedly accepted and where “knowledge is power”, lifestyles have demanded a change in the service we expect. Along with the metamorphic rise of the power of technology the consumer has suddenly become king.

The buying cycle that was once just about brand awareness, brand consideration and the purchase of a product, has suddenly changed. Consumer demand and a world evolving around product and service have suddenly meant that the consumer has choice; they have to make a decision based on what they prefer. Preference has become based on product and the service experience.

From Virgin Atlantic to Apple, from Starbucks to Nike, brands have to deliver more than a product, they have to provide an “exceptional experience” that enables the consumer to make a decision. I buy lunch in Prêt a Manger not because of the quality of the bread, the freshness of the carrot juice or the friendliness of the staff; I buy into the Prêt experience, the opportunity of being part of the Prêt world. The training at Prêt is not just about sitting in a classroom learning how to make coffee, it’s about learning how to be part of the Prêt world, how to deliver the experience, how to wow the consumer and deliver something more than a sandwich.

The Starbucks coffee chain, through empowerment, belief and investment has been able to achieve its mission and to grow to be one of the biggest and the best service businesses in the world. By empowering its partners (staff) it has been able to grow into a global brand and at the same time revolutionize the concept of serving coffee. Commitment to product and service excellence, along with a fantastic employee and customer experience has enabled Starbucks to become a “white knight” brand – a brand for the people!

While some of us take training for granted, there are still operators out there who regard it as a luxury. The future of hospitality is, indeed, the people who deliver our experience. For this reason we cannot underestimate the importance of training and development. We have to invest in our people, we have to help create a culture which may in part be seen as hospitality Utopia and, for that reason, unreachable for most. We have to push the boundaries to create the guest experience that will set our product above others. Experience mavericks, for me, are those who constantly question their product, those who want to give their people more, those who want to make a difference to our industry. They strive to make a business all about the experience.

Brands more than ever need to evaluate the service they give and determine their destiny by delivering an experience, while, at the same time, turning a consumer product transaction into a love affair.

Working with the operators you need to recreate role profiles, job descriptions, recruitment procedures. You need to set standards of service, mission statements, training systems and evaluation techniques. By doing this you are creating a service ambition that is driven by people not just its product.

Evaluation is important; you need to measure the success of the experience. Measuring standards is the only way you can deliver a consistent and compelling experience.

As the world becomes more and more saturated with products the consumer cycle will get more and more complex. The experience will overtake the product and the consumer will become more powerful. Brands will have to create a fantastic consumer experience if they are to be the preferred consumers’ choice.

Whether you are selling an airline seat, a hotel room, a luxury brand of whisky or, indeed, a restaurant booking, the product – while important – is nothing without the experience. 
Robbie Bargh is creative director and founder of the Gorgeous Group, specialists in hospitality

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