My husband Murray and I are pretty health conscious… but on occasion, we make “the choice to cheat.”
Sunday night was one of those moments.
I had just wrapped an important 4-day video shoot and I had been extremely disciplined going into the shoot. I wanted to look, feel and perform at my best…
So I was no sugar, no gluten and no dairy… for over a month.
And Murray had just gotten periodontic surgery so he was only able to consume liquids…
We both craved a cheat and headed to Salt & Straw, the boutique ice cream shop that had opened up on Abbott Kinney. Ever since it opened, we noticed the long line spilling out the door… and we wondered what all the fuss was about.
On a normal day, we couldn’t be bothered to queue up and wait 30-minutes for an ice cream. But today was different. We needed a release… and ice cream seemed like just the thing!
We finally got to the front of a line and this 20-something All-American lad with curly brown hair and huge smile came out from behind the counter and walked right up to us.
– “How can I help you?”
“Ummm, we’d like some ice cream.”
He smiled, “OK, come with me.”
We walked up and started ordering samples of flavors that intrigued us…
I tried the Black Olive Brittle & Goat Cheese… it was rich and delicious, and a couple bites were enough. Then we tried the Bone Marrow & Smoked Cherries… and not wanting to be the obnoxious customers who asked for a taste of everything, we placed my order after one sample.
I was stoked to see they offered split scoops for an extra 50 cents, which meant I could try 4 flavors with a double cone…
– “Sure thing which flavor would you like on the bottom?”
“Peach on the bottom…”
He goes on to get the first scoop then as he reaches in for the second he asks: “Have you been here before?”
I said we hadn’t, and without hesitation, he threw the cone into the trash and said “You have to try the best flavors before you decide”, and produced a box full of sampler spoons.
“OK, so our best flavors are Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons.”
And he gives us each a taste… pure delish. I’m starting to think I need to change my choices…
“And this is the Almost Brittle with Salted Ganache. OMG. Now here’s the Apples & Sidecar Doughnuts. Mmmmm…. Doughnuts. And the Salted Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. What?!!??? Now let me run you through the chocolates since it’s hard to know what Freckled Woodblock Chocolate really is… it’s a milk chocolate base with dark chocolate freckles.””
At this point we’re starting to tell him what’s up… that I haven’t had sugar for over a month and that Murray can’t eat any solid foods.
And he lets us know that he hasn’t been able to eat most of the flavors all summer either so he’s living vicariously through his customers….
“Here’s the Chocolate Gooey Brownie and the California Honey Rocky Road… Is there anything else you’d like to try?”
He wasn’t a server, he was an ice cream “concierge.”
“Yeah, can I try the Peach Crumble and the Stumptown Coffee and the Boabab Juice & Coconut?…”
I asked for all the flavors I was planning on ordering since I wanted to make sure they were as good as the flavors I had just tried. Then Murray tries the Roasted Strawberry & Toasted White Chocolate and the Honey Lavender. Wowza… this was ice cream.
We were so full by the time we were done tasting that we downgraded our order to single cones with split scoops. I apologized profusely.
“You’ve been so generous with your samples that I only have room left for a single scoop.”
Don’t apologize. What would you like?
“I’ll take the Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and the Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons…”
I had completely changed my order based on our experience… And Murray ended up with the California Honey Rocky Road and the Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons…
He handed us our cones with a huge smile and waved goodbye.
Then we walked up the iPad console to pay and the cashier at the counter smiles and says, “You’re all taken care of” as we pulled out our credit card. He waved us away and said, “It’s on us.”
And Murray and I were just shocked. We had spent 10-minutes tasting ice cream and chatting with the ice cream concierge, while they had a line around the block, then we downgraded our orders from double cones to single cones, and they gave it to us for free…
We didn’t know why – had we won some kind of ice cream lottery?
Did each server get to comp one cone per night? Did the cashier randomly select someone each night to comp? Was this some kind of pay it forward? Did they comp us since they knew we were local and would come back?
We had no clue… but we walked out of there that night thinking about when we wanted to come back next. I was excited to take my brother and my nephews there.
Kids in an ice cream shop, right?
And I realized that they had just created customers for life. We’re not big desert people and they had us hooked – hooked on the service, hooked on the experience, and yes hooked on the product too.
They were playing the long game. That’s why there was a line that stretched around the block. Instead of looking at short term profit, they took their time with each and every customer. They had 8 young, enthusiastic and highly-trained ice cream concierges working each night to provide a level of service that I’ve never seen in an ice cream shop.
They made it an experience… it wasn’t just getting an ice cream cone. We dived into a world of farmers and flavor hacking. A world where ice cream wasn’t just a food, it was a way of life.
And the ice cream concierge who welcomed us into this world took it as his sacred purpose to blow the palette off our taste buds and have us coming back for more.
He did it beautifully… and got me thinking about new ways that we can play the long game in our business and customer support.
How can we surprise and delight our customers and have them come back not just for the quality of the product but for the experience, the community and the feeling we create?
Leave a comment below and let me know how you can play the long-game in your business? What is one specific way you can create an extraordinary experience for new customers?
Now go out there and Live Your Message.
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Powerful! Forget the ice cream – I want to go there just for the experience!!
Totally Don! I’ll have to take you…
Marisa that is a great story indeed but really scary too. Now well wishes to Murray and OUCH but hopefully soon he can really knock over a large steak .
That ice cream experience scares me when I think of being the boss. All that staffing but I know America possibly still pay low wages and live off the tipping regime.Training those salespeople? The time spent for the remuneration is not good ? How long before you return and will you go through the same experience next time or grab a quick fix .I hear the customer message but really the product must be expensive or how do they come out on top and how long will the business really flourish before it closes.Any business can offer too much choice ?
I think I would have an “experience night”like a FREEBIE try the product and fill the place somewhere or somehow and really sell to the masses on site .Possibly then give all the attendees a voucher ( coupon) to come back for a single cone of choice and no not an expensive serve but a treat .I could go on but yes there is a message there but we need to be conscious of costs and the bottom line . cheers and Rocky Road will do me .
Len – the business is flourishing so apparently the long game is working for them… 🙂
Sounds like you have some awesome ideas too. 🙂
Love the olive + goat cheese!
An experience makes all the difference. I’ve got a lot of the “concierge” element… learning to weave it for larger audience 🙂
Oh yay! Olive + goat cheese… and yes to experiences all around.
What a story…you brought home the message with such descriptive words that I could just about taste the ice cream flavors while at the same time seeing the connection between your story and excellent customer service
Thanks Paula! I had fun writing this one… 🙂
Iam a therapist of 39 years I live by this!Ive always done community
Service , never turned anyone away because of lack of funds!When
You give it away it comes back ten fold!!!!!