How to give clients a remarkable experience they’ll talk about for years

How many architects choreograph a remarkable client experience so good that it is worthy of retelling at a dinner party or newsletter?

When was the last time you had a “remarkable experience” at a restaurant or indeed from any service provider?

Maybe it's been a while since your last outing. Let's stroll down memory lane. By remarkable, I mean an experience that provides you with a story worthy of remarking about at a dinner party, a story that delights the other guests and one you might even repeat at multiple dinner parties.

Sit back and let me tell you a little pre-pandemic story.

“What’s happening on the 17th of October?” asked my wife Julia.

“I told you, I have my Mastermind marketing group meeting in Martinborough for two days,” I replied innocently. 

Clearly, this was the wrong answer …

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Oooops, what have I forgotten? What have I forgotten? What have I forgotten? 

Then it hit me. October 17 is our 10th Wedding Anniversary. 

Now understand this: As a guy, our 10th is merely the anniversary that follows the 9th … but to my wife, the 10th is a MAJOR milestone that warranted a MAJOR celebration at a location that will be remembered and talked about forEVER.

I had not received this memo and my mind-reading skills were not running at full strength leading up to this momentous date.

After a few phone calls, I discovered my predicament was worse than first thought. Unfortunately, my Mastermind members had already booked flights and hotels. On the sports field, I might have been known as the tough guy; however, in my marriage when it comes to psychological warfare and a battle of wills, I was bringing a knife to a gunfight. 

The situation needed to be elevated to “code red,” which meant a full-scale rescue mission. 

‘If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.'

Somehow, I had to persuade Julia that coming to Martinborough would be a worthy location for this significant occasion. 

I needed to use all my persuasive powers and engage a full-scale charm offensive. So after taking a deep breath, I explained that our anniversary must be conducted in Martinborough – not Queenstown or Auckland or Sydney or Fiji – but Martinborough, which was previously described by Julia as a “shitty little town” when she first learned of this double booking.

The charm offensive did not go well.

Julia accepted that I had no other option for the 17th, but made it her mission to help me realize the error of my neglectful ways such that any future anniversary ending in a zero would never be forgotten in the future. If she had a tattoo machine, she would have marked the date on the inside of my eyelids.

On the 16th, our Mastermind (Day One) was all about creating a “Remarkable Client Experience.” That night, I asked the Reception staff at the hotel if they could recommend a good restaurant for our group. They rightly suggested the hotel restaurant. I insisted, however, that we wanted to get away to a vineyard. The recommendation was instant – Tirohana Estate.

I was notified that this vineyard restaurant would send two trucks to pick my group up and get us to the restaurant. They picked us up on time, and each driver gave us the “backstory” on the estate and talked about delights we could expect on the menu.

We arrived and were greeted by the owner, David, who came out into the carpark to shake our hands and welcome us. My group was astounded and they assumed I must have organized this as an example of the lesson from the day. 

I hadn’t. But by saying nothing, I could almost take credit. 🙂 

We were led inside to sign the visitor book and then into the Collections room with a complimentary glass of David’s port. Turns out David was an outstanding raconteur and showman. He delighted our group with his movie stories, connections (verging on name-dropping), and collections – this guy was a real pro.

We moved into the restaurant and were charmed with a level of personal service at the table that was itself remarkable. The night ended, David and his team shook our hands and drove us back to the hotel.

What a great night out. 

I could only think of one thing … maybe David and his team could rescue my 10th anniversary. The next morning, a reluctant hotel guest was arriving and, unless I could pull a giant white rabbit out of the hat, I would surely be forced to take a “very long hard look at myself in the mirror” (not a sight I wanted to see).

The Mastermind group disbanded. Julia arrived and I rebooked Tirohana in full hope they could repair what was left of my situation. 

We arrived, David again greeted us outside the front door and recognized me from the night before. Julia was impressed. One of us revealed that it was our 10th wedding anniversary and David seized on this piece of information, which he immediately understood as a MAJOR event. Clearly, David had more life experience than me.

David took us to the table and brought out a glass of champagne along with a few “palate teasers” to wake up the taste buds, all “on the house, to celebrate a truly significant occasion.” 

Julia was impressed and wanted to know if I had organized all these remarkable events. I smiled knowingly as if to imply I had choreographed the entire Tirohana team for this night.

David then brought out a bottle of his own award-winning wine which he sells for $200, a wine I would not normally buy, but given the circumstances …

However, David insisted that this wine was his 10th wedding anniversary gift to us and that we could either open the bottle now or take it away if we preferred. David left the wine on the table and disappeared like a magician who knows he has left his audience spellbound.

Julia was so amazed she could not speak. Never had we been treated in such a special manner at a restaurant. All had been forgiven, I had been forgiven and she could not help but talk about what a remarkable chain of events we were witnessing.

David returned and asked if we wanted to open the bottle at the table. I informed him that as I was driving quite a distance that night to a “special” location, we might save the bottle for another night. David understood and walked off, slightly disappointed.

He then returned. It seemed David was not satisfied with this answer and now offered that we open the wine to enjoy on this special occasion and he would give us another bottle to take away. Then he said that he has a cottage back in the village only a five-minute drive and that his son will drive us to the cottage and the other waiter will drive our car, so we can stay for the night and therefore enjoy the first bottle that night.

Stunned, Julia said, “No, we cannot accept.” I said, “Yes, we can.” This is the white rabbit I had been praying for. We finished our champagne, opened the wine, and enjoyed a stunning meal, service, and dessert. 

This seemed too good to be true but it was not. We were driven to the cottage and arrived at an open fire already roaring in the living room. Someone had been sent 30 minutes earlier to stoke up the fire of romance. The cottage was everything David promised it would be – quaint, clean, and close. 

The anniversary that was in danger of becoming infamous now had become one that I would forever struggle to match, thanks to David. Everything in this story is 100% true.

How many times have you had a remarkable experience in a restaurant or anywhere that is worth writing about in a newsletter?

Not many, if any.

The standard of “remarkable” in most industries is so low that you do not need to do much to stand out, but the companies who strategically and methodically choreograph a remarkable experience rise to the top of their markets and dominate it like no other.

Think Disney, Apple, Airbnb, and Uber. These are services or experiences that make you go “WOW, that is so clever I can’t wait to tell (or show) my friends.”

How many architects choreograph a remarkable client experience so good that it is worthy of retelling at a dinner party or in a newsletter? 

Your competition is asleep at the wheel. So while they are asleep, how about you figure out what you can do before, during or after? How about a few small but highly memorable things you can consistently do that surprise and amaze your audience and have them talk about you for 10 years? 

If you have not already celebrated your 10th wedding anniversary, then I suggest you start planning now. You’d better make it good. Whether it’s on holiday or at home, you can design an incredible experience — after all, you’re an ambitious, proactive architect for even getting this far.

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