Every famous beverage - from Dom Perignon to Coors beer -- is laced with great stories. Champagne lovers know that a Benedictine monk and cellar master named Dom Perignon was the “father of champagne” and invited his friends over to “taste the stars.” Coors lovers enjoy the story of people from the East Coast importing purchased beer in their luggage, when the beer was only available West of the Colorado-New Mexico border.
I am a fan of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Sour Mash Charcoal filtered whiskey. There are many stories about founder Jack Daniel and proprietor Lem Motlow. I want to focus on the present day story of how the whiskey is made in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Fast-forward from the iron-free water from a nearby cave to the selection of corn descended from antique seeds that are mixed with rye and malted barley and then distilled to create mash ready for the filtering part of the process. The filtering part of the story goes like this.
Sugar maple trees are cut down, dressed like lumber and placed in a neat stack 10 feet high in a giant vat much like a massive box of matches. The wood is set on fire and reduced to charcoal that is then placed and packaged in another large container.
Now, here is the best part. The mash is poured into the container and allowed to slowly seep through the charcoal. It takes seven days for the whiskey to come out off the bottom of the container leaving it with a distinctively charcoal taste. Then, it is placed in white oak wooden barrels with their interiors charred and allowed to age at least four years. My favorite variety - Single Barrel -- is aged for six years.
We live in a time of mass merchandizing done quickly to satiate the cravings and desires of an ever demanding, ever-changing marketplace. Speed-to-market is as crucial as a productive shelf life in a retail store. The need for speed sentiment gets passed from object makers to experience creators. Self-service becomes a vital delivery channel. Just-in-time service elevates customer expectations for faster and faster service. As customers, we hate to wait. In the words of the rock group Queen, “I want it all; I want it now.”
If the goal of customer service is satisfaction, perhaps fast is a feature we should expect and deliver. But satisfaction will not leave the customer with a powerful memory they are eager to share. However, if the goal is the kind of distinction that leaves customers loyal, there may be a requirement for it taking longer. We can rush through a burger at a quick-service restaurant, but if the cuisine is gourmet and the service is elegant, we opt to dine and savor, not just eat and run.
I recently toured artifacts of antiquity in Rome, Florence and Venice and marveled at how long it took to create masterpieces now 2,000 years old. Cathedrals took two centuries to build. Tapestries required many years of craftsmanship for a single rendering. And the pace was not completely related to their antiquated tools or techniques. It was the meticulous pursuit of excellence by the artisans.
What would a service masterpiece be like? What would service be like if you made it better, more elegant, more unique, more special and more enduring - even if you sacrificed rapid turnaround to get it? Sure, you would lose the part of the marketplace that prefers mediocre in the moment. But, would you find a niche that so valued your carefully crafted offering they would pay a premium to get it?
Tesla Motors has found that 85 percent of consumers are willing to wait three to four weeks to get the exact vehicle they want. They resist the impulse to buy off the dealer’s lot. The payoff? Ninety-seven percent of Tesla owners say they would buy their vehicle again.
Once again, what would be the impact on your customers if you slowed the quickness of service creation in order to fashion something so special your customers would be cheerfully willing to wait? Cult-like brands can charge a premium that can more than make up for the less cost-effective, time-consuming feature of distinctive service.