Byron's Babbles

Smiles For All Your Miles

As a friend, student, and fan of Dr. Joseph Michelli and all his books, I understand the importance of the customer experience. I was reminded of this when I stopped at Buc-ee’s yesterday. For those not familiar, it is a humongous gas station/convenience store/outlet mall (with Buc-ee’s brands) all rolled into one. It is an experience! Founded in 1982, the mission is pretty simple: to provide a clean and friendly in-store experience. In fact, if you haven’t been, you need to go, just to experience the award winning bathrooms. Yes, you read that right – award winning. In 2012, Cintas, a corporate supplier to the service industry, named the New Braunfels, Texas Buc-ee’s location the winner of a nationwide restroom contest. You can read about it here.

In Exactly What We Aim For I quoted Michelli stating, “…I believe that even greater customer value comes from moving from services to experiences (rather than from products to services).” Buc-ee’s understands that the experience is everything. The co-founders Arch (“Beaver”) Aplin and Don Wasek set out to make these extravaganzas the very best in the world. They had a pretty simple strategy statement: “To have the cleanest restrooms.” Think about it, isn’t that all we really want when traveling? When exiting for a pit stop, I have heard my family more than once say, “Pick the place that looks like it will have the cleanest restrooms.” With the Buc-ee’s experience, we know it will be them.

They have even made the billboards along the interstate part of the experience. When 212 miles away you are seeing a billboard telling you that you can stop at Buc-ee’s in, well, 212 miles. Then, when you leave and get back on the interstate, the first billboard you see says, “Until We Meet Again – 165 miles” (see photo). Again, part of the experience. The other thing is, you won’t have to deal with 18 wheelers – not allowed. Every fuel pump, of which there are over 100, has both diesel and regular. The Buc-ee’s I was at even featured ethanol-free fuel and DEF. And, if you need it, they’ve got it! They have (and most of it, their own brand) souvenirs, food, snacks, clothing, hunting gear, college wear (although they were missing the Purdue stuff!), and my favorite – a jerky wall.

When you go on Buc-ee’s website and look under employment, they say, “We believe our store should be clean. We believe our staff should be friendly. We believe our prices should be low. If you believe what we believe, come join the Buc-ee’s team!” Then they ask, “Do you believe what we believe?” If that is not customer experience driven, I am not sure what is. As a person whose life-work is supporting education, I wish every young person could have the experience of learning from this business. Check out the photo of the careers available and salaries. Students would certainly be learning leadership and the customer experience. Maybe the Buc-ee’s folks and I should talk! Next time you are on the interstate and see the Buc-ee’s billboards, start planning your incredible travel-stop experience.


Exactly What We Aim For

As I write this post I am in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky sitting in the comfy chair while my son sits at the desk finishing an animal science class assignment. I’m in Heaven! I get to spend time with my boy. He drove over from Murray State University and I came from home to meet here for the weekend at the National Farm Machinery Show. He’s now a junior, but it’s still rough on me having him six hours from home. Before he left for college we did everything together. Now, when we get a weekend like this it is very special. I’m telling you all this to make the point that everything we do this weekend becomes part of the memory.

So, the experience matters! While in Louisville we are customers. And, as my friend Joseph Michelli would remind me, it is all about the customer experience. I try to find and read everything he writes because his insights help me grow personally and professionally. In a blog post entitled “It’s Not What You Value | Team Member and Customer Value” he wrote:

“…I believe that even greater customer value comes from moving from services to experiences (rather than from products to services).”

I love this idea of moving to experiences. I’ve always tried to make my gatherings (what most call workshops and professional development sessions) like a KISS concert – an experience. Tonight, my son and I had an experience! We went to Churchill Downs and ate at Matt Winn’s Steakhouse. To learn who Colonel Matt Winn was, click here.

Our experience started as soon as we parked at Churchill Downs. Actually, let’s back up. The experience started shortly after I made our reservation when I got an email explaining what gate to go in, where to park, and that someone would meet us to take us to the restaurant. Everything was exactly as outlined. We were picked up in a golf cart and driven through hallowed Churchill Downs to the red carpet. We walked through jockey statues painted in the silks of major race winners. Of course we stopped and took a selfie with the representative of the Kentucky Derby winner. Then it was up to the sixth floor. We were treated to tableside service and incredible food, all while overlooking the historic Churchill Downs Racetrack.

Then before the dessert cart we were asked if we would like to go out on the veranda and enjoy the view. So, we did! We actually stayed out there for an hour and visited with other exhibitors and attendees of the National Farm Machinery Show. After three hours and forty-six minutes we were finishing up our experience, umm, dinner. My son then made a profound comment to our server, “This is so much more than what I anticipated!” And our incredible server replied with the comment that affirms all of Joseph Michelli’s teaching, “That’s exactly what we aim for.” Giving people more than they anticipate. That’s a huge part of the customer experience.

Here’s the deal, the food (product) was incredible. In fact, after the deviled egg appetizer my son said he would never eat another because no deviled egg could ever compare again. The physical atmosphere was awesome. Those to me were the easy things. It was the people that made the experience. We knew our server so well by the end of our experience that we wanted our picture taken with her. She and all the other incredible people made the experience more than what we anticipated. Matt Winn’s will become an annual tradition for us. It’s an experience my son and I will not forget and a memory we will always cherish. This was a perfect reminder of just how important the experience we give others is.