David Bouley, owner of the popular restaurant Bouley, is arguably one of the greatest American chefs. He is also a god when it comes to designing a customer experience. Dining at his eponymous restaurant in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan is a sensation for the palate and a practical lesson in how to consciously design an experience to surprise and delight.
Customer intimacy and experience are the buzzwords and aspirations of the moment. The increasing availability of analytics and data to support and direct creative and design choices point to more personal, relevant, useful, and delightful ways for brands to engage, sell, and build advocacy among consumers.
Here’s what I learned from a master chef:
Target the Business Objective. Everything begins with what you want the customer to see, feel, and take away. Bouley wants you to walk away feeling amazing. He will fill your mouth with tastes and sensations you’ve never had before. He’ll surround you with warmth, comfort, and a sense of understated luxury that leaves you with the feeling that you are welcomed and belong. He focuses on you and your guests by providing a platform to share and converse. And he sends you into the night happy and satisfied with free, unexpected, and delicious provisions for breakfast. Bouley built a loyal customer base for his expense account restaurant by starting with the business objective in mind.
Focus on Senses and Cadences. Most experiences have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Bouley guides what you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. Bouley instinctively understands the importance of emotion and feeling in the marketing process. Nothing is left to chance. The entryway smells of warm apples. The room is warm and lit sensuously. The chairs are extremely comfortable. The linens are crisp but not overly starched. The menu reflects seasonal tastes and locally available, fresh seasonal ingredients.
The experience is designed to be frictionless. Everything is gently revealed and pleasant. The stumbling blocks have been anticipated and proactively cleared.
The people who greet you are formal but friendly. Every element is orchestrated to give you a feeling of belonging and to heighten your enjoyment in the moment.
The food comes out at a pace that feels natural. You never wait too little or too long. The staff watches closely to see when you pause, when you’re done, or when you need more water, bread, or wine.
He super delivers against expectations. You expect a waiter; you get a team. You expect bread; you get a bread cart with twenty choices and a doting baker. You expect a drink, an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert; you get that plus an array of unexpected tastes and mini-courses punctuated by explanations by the maître d.
Get the Details Right. Consumers are influenced by initial impressions, comfortable design, and intuitive navigation. The only way to deliver these experiences is to develop a laser-like focus on the details. Bouley thinks about ambient light, the feel of the napkins, the weight of the fish forks, the shape of the water and wine glasses, and the mother-of-pearl box that the bill is presented in.
If you are serious about optimizing the customer experience and fostering engagement and satisfaction translate the Bouley strategy into digital channels by doing these seventeen things:
1. Decide what you want prospects to see, think, and feel
2. Focus on what your customers want and where they look
3. Anticipate what they expect to do
4. Track what they actually do
5. Imagine all the things that could get in the way
6. Look how they search and what words they use
7. Watch how they scroll, click, or download
8. Measure which elements get the most engagement or time spent
9. Think long and hard about where you place the CTAs; their size, color, and labels
10. Test fonts, type sizes, and kerning
11. Assess page views and page sequences
12. Get feedback as you design experiences
13. Group like content or products for easy comparison or upsell
14. Install pixel tracking or metrics software
15. Test your designs with eye-tracking and guided tasks
16. Keep your eye on what competitors are doing
17. Look out the window. Learn from unusual experts like David Bouley.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.