What I’m about to share makes me excited. Not only is it one of the most valuable lessons any business owner can learn, but it’s also a story which is very close to my heart.
It all started back in 2009, when Hannah and I were embarking on our first ever holiday together. We had planned to see the ‘famous’ sights of Scotland.
After a couple of days and en route to Lochness, we planned a short lunch stop in a beautiful little town called Pitlochry in Perthshire. A real gem. For a relatively small town, it has a wonderful selection of shops, cafes, restaurants and even a theatre.
However, it didn’t quite pan out like that.
As we pulled into this picturesque town there was somewhat of a buzz about the place. An intriguing purpose to the people walking around. Street performers, storytelling tents, decorations up and down the street and lots of happy faces going about their day.
It was the autumn festival and we loved it. We decided to change our plans and stay here for the night instead of moving on.
We enquired about rooms in the lovely restaurant in which we ate lunch, only to find they were full. Struggling to get any internet connection, I rang my mum and asked her to look online.
She came back quickly with a beautiful and secluded 18th-century guest house, just on the outskirts of the town. They too were very busy, however, they did have their family room still available. We snapped it up.
At that moment, little did we realise that our lives would never be the same again.
As we walked up to the door, we were warmly welcomed by Heather and Martin, a married couple who owned and managed the business.
Right away we were taken back by the attention to detail at every step of this wonderful experience.
The rooms were pristinely clean and beautifully decorated to accentuate the charm of the house. A perfectly constructed pillow arrangement with a little red squirrel teddy perched on the bed.
A selection of high-quality hot drink options along with a couple of freshly baked shortbread biscuits and even a little jug of chilled fresh milk on request for a much-needed cup of tea.
The experience seemed to just get better.
The following morning, we were welcomed in the dining room for a sensational breakfast.
It was hard to choose. The menu included a ‘Full Scottish’ breakfast, eggs benedict, smoked salmon, Scottish porridge and whiskey or even pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.
Even just thinking about it now is making my stomach rumble.
To start with you’re invited to sample an elegant range of fruits and cereals which include apricots, oranges, figs, spiced plums and more.
Before our breakfasts arrived, we were presented with a warm basket of fresh toast and homemade breads, cakes and muffins to accompany.
Then came the main event. Martin had truly excelled in the kitchen. When our plates arrived (both Hannah and I had the Full Scottish), it was so impressive.
The breakfast consisted of a high-quality sausage, thick rashers of bacon, sauteed mushrooms, a perfectly poached egg which was of an oozy consistency throughout, alongside a traditional black pudding and Scottish “tattie” scone.
Throughout the sitting, Heather had seemed to perfect the art of equally balancing the conversation with each of the guests in the dining area, making every couple or family feel like they were the most important people in the room.
She would listen attentively and be sure to engage with every member of each party. She showed an incredible ability to remember your names and plans for the day in a way which can only be achieved by someone who ACTUALLY cares.
Now at the beginning, I talked about a valuable lesson. Whilst everything I’ve described so far is a truly exemplary display of customer experience, which honestly edges every single London 5-star hotel I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at.
It isn’t the most impressive part of the story or indeed the point I set out to make.
That didn’t come until our inevitable next visit.
Every detail I’ve described so far was exactly the same. So it was the next time. And the time after that too.
This is a lesson of consistency, and a valuable one at that. Because in the eyes of your customer, nothing else is as important in the end.
No matter how good you are at what you do, it’s almost irrelevant if you can’t deliver on your promise each and every time.
From what we have personally experienced, nothing slips. Nothing is missed… ever.
It’s in their ability to achieve consistency that great businesses can truly stand apart. It’s much easier to achieve a single day of excellence, than it is to achieve excellence every single day.
You won’t be surprised to learn that we’re not the only people who think these thoughts. In fact these days, it’s rare to speak to guests who haven’t stayed before, several times.
Genuine customers for life, each with their own fateful story of how they stumbled upon it, just like ours.
Don’t underestimate how hard this is to achieve and how much effort has to go into getting this right.
But if either of us can achieve just 50% of what Heather and Martin have, then we’ll have incredible businesses on our hands.