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New York Customer Experience Stars

January 30, 2012

New York Customer Experience Stars

Walt Disney is noted for saying that he wanted to create an experience that customers enjoy so much they come back, and they tell their friends. As part of Peppers & Rogers Group's Social Media Week last week, 1to1 Media Editorial Director Ginger Conlon and I spoke to several business leaders in New York whose firms were cited by 1to1 readers as having a unique or outstanding customer experience.

Our day started at The Palm Restaurant, which has a reputation for outstanding service. A guest can say, "We're thinking seafood tonight" and the meal will unfold in a delight of seafood. General Manager Alex Hasbany shared the secret ingredient to the Palm's customer experience in this video--including why there are more than 1,000 caricatures of customers painted on the restaurant's walls.

Next stop was Tiffany, which is known for delivering great service before and after the sale. The staff was delightful, as always, but there was no one in the store empowered to speak on camera about what makes Tiffany special.

After a quick taxi ride down Fifth Avenue, a warm welcome awaited us at Grand Central Terminal. Dan Brucker, media relations officer for Metro-North Railroad, and Mike Nolan, assistant director of customer service, explained on video how the Lost & Found is able to support the entire Metro-North Railroad, processing more than 2,000 items per month with a 50 percent return rate on most items, and an 80 percent return rate on high-value items (including a $15,000 pair of ruby earrings and a Basset hound who had wandered onto a train).

Afterward we visited Alla Leviyeva, owner of Viorica--my personal favorite nail spa in Manhattan. What makes it different? The staff really cares about their customers; not just about the health of their nails, but about them as people. So, every time you go, it's like going home. Alla spoke with us in this video about how her relationship with her employees is the foundation for their relationships with customers.

Then we journeyed to Other Music, where the staff goes out of its way to meet the needs of serious music fans. The store stocks hard-to-find music and offers an eclectic mix of genres, much of which is based on customer recommendations. In this video Daniel Givens shared with us what makes Other Music unique: for example, the staff provides advice and suggestions to producers looking for music for ads, TV shows, movies, dance productions and more.

A short walk up Broadway led us to Barnes & Noble Union Square, which is known to pull out all the stops to provide unique customer events. For example, for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows launch the store had an event featuring live owls, an apothecary serving juice with popping rocks, actors in costume, magicians, and fortune tellers.

Unfortunately, no one was able to speak with us without prior approval from corporate PR. Like Tiffany, we had contacted corporate PR several times via phone and email, but never received a response.

Before leaving Barnes & Noble, Ginger and I marveled that the manager of the store is responsible for four floors of merchandise, an entire staff, security, events, a café, and its P&L, but can't be trusted to tell us what sets its customer experience apart from other retailers. Transparency, anyone?

The day ended with a walk through Times Square, which offers an experience nothing short of magic. Pulsing lights, bustling tourists, flashing billboards, street hawkers, and an eclectic mix of business come together to engage and engulf passersby in a uniquely New York experience. It was the perfect segue to the evening activity: Peppers & Rogers Group's Social Media Week Meet-up at Forty Four in the Royalton Hotel, whose customer experience is also five-star.

These diverse places are just a few examples of operations that know their customers, know what's important to them, and then excel at delivering it. What business do you admire for its unique or outstanding customer experience?

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