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A Good Experience
What do clients want?
It’s been 25 or so years that I’ve been, in some capacity, in front of clients. In fact, longer if I add the time I’ve been in front of customers: the lovely people that visited our liquor shop back in Holland. Their needs were rarely a challenge. They would point to a bottle (jenever, whisky, beer, 7up, etc), followed by an exchange of money, and that was that.
Occasionally a wine connoisseur would drop in – my mum loved these people since wines were her passion, her specialty – they described at length, and sometimes rather colourfully, the type of wine they were looking for.
They loved my mum. She’d talk with great insight and fluidly flick between Dutch and French and German to articulate the wine’s properties, its background, etc., making the whole experience rather authentic for the connoisseur. We stocked good and great wines, and some were collectables with prices to match.
Once a year, the regulars would be invited into our living room, literally at the other side of the shop’s till, for the first release of the Beaujolais Primeur or Nouveau. We were the first ones in our home town every year to stock the new release (that was my dad’s thing – always wanting to be first with everything. Something about differentiation). These were exciting social get togethers. Mum and Dad would be chatty, hand out cheese and bread with a glass of Beaujoulais and in the company of ‘friends’ tipple a few afternoons away (incidentally, I’ve never seen them drunk. Some of our customers yes, but not my mum and dad).
Customers loved it, they felt very special.
"No one created the experience my parents offered, such was our brand."
You could get the wine in most liquor shops within a day or so of the release, but no one created the experience my parents offered, such was our brand.
Working with a design agency now, the client doesn’t point to a product. They are much more like the wine connoisseur. Like in my mum’s world, these people come to us because we are the specialists, they have a particular need not easily come by. What else do these clients want?
A rounded, authentic, savvy offering means a lot more to these clients than a clinical transactional exchange of service for money.
My mum was a good listener and took her time with customers. Mum always let people finish what they had to say, used pauses for reflection and asked lots of questions to find out more about the customer’s likes and dislikes. Being genuinely interested in people’s stories made the whole approach a lot easier.
Mum was excellent at talking the customer’s ‘language’. She would pick up on people’s jargon and use it back to them in a respectful manner. So much so that wannabe connoisseurs (the odd wine dabbler deserving of an education) would be suitably advised in their own ‘language’, leaving a whole lot smarter, only to come back for more another day. She also managed to elevate conversations so it all felt a bit more special. She would use words like 'chique' (French for elegant) and kostbaar instead of prijzig (prijzig = costly, kostbaar = valuable), simply adding a bit of panache which reflected the wine on offer. You could say that she used her own tone of voice.
And Mum was and is a gezellig mens (a cozy person, inviting, engaging, warm and appreciative - words fail to explain it properly), with a slightly dark wit that keeps you tuned in, in a good way.
What do clients want?
Let’s rephrase. How do we make our clients feel when they come looking for what they want?