Have you ever heard of The Keg restaurant? How about the third season of The Apprentice? They will be forever linked in my mind.

I spent last weekend in Cincinnati, where my brother-in-law is responsible for my current case of projection TV envy. His is incredible! Crisp. Detailed. Over 100 inches wide. We watched The Apprentice in high definition. I will confess that there’s something fascinating about seeing The Donald larger-than-life when he says “You’re fired!”

Seems the two teams had been assigned to fixing up and running a couple of run-down motels on the Jersey shore. The each had $20,000 for renovation, and 48 hours in which to do so.

In my opinion both teams did a less than spectacular job of making those rooms acceptable. No one bothered to clean the carpets, for instance. The judging was done by guests who had spent the night. They were asked to rate the facility and its staff on a scale of 1 – 5.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The street smart team, Net Worth, may have actually produced better looking rooms. Net Worth was judged by the guests at an average 2.92 out of 5.0. The book smart team, Magna, with no better facility, managed a rather impressive 3.96 on that same scale.

The difference? As the guests checked in, the Magna team personally invited them to come out and join a party at about 8pm. They hung around the pool, drank a few beers, and made everyone feel as if they were part of the group. This sense of belonging added a full 1.04 to their score. Another way to score it was: Magna 79.2%, Net Worth 58.4%.

Humm. So, personal attention, treating customers as if they’re important, was the difference between a low “C” and an “F.”

Our weekend in Cincinnati ended. The Lovely Mrs. McKay and I packed our bags, kissed everyone goodbye, and with one last wistful look at the brother-in-law’s TV we flew back into DFW. Early flight… long layover in Detroit… we landed hungry. Pulled off Loop 820 on the way home for a quick stop at Best Buy, and noticed “The Keg” steakhouse on the other side of the parking lot.

I knew nothing about The Keg. I’ve never seen any advertising for the place. They had NO image in my mind. My first impression of The Keg was “This is a nice place for special occasions.” It’s not a restaurant I’d have chosen when I was hungry and in a hurry to get home. But, we were already there. We were definitely hungry. We opted to “spoil” ourselves and stay for the prime rib.

As the hostess seated us she asked if we’d ever visited them before. When we said “no,” she pulled out a couple of quick forms to add us to their mailing list, and to make us eligible for a free steak and lobster dinner on our respective birthdays. Our waiter, Chad, introduced himself and took our drink orders. Then the manager on duty, Brandon, came by with huge prawns in cocktail sauce. He introduced himself, and said that Chad had informed him that it was our first visit. Would we please accept this shrimp cocktail with his complements?

The food arrived, and was wonderful. Chad had recommended a three-cheese butter for my baked potato that moved my diet from “way of life” to “fond memory.”

Now, again, this would not have normally been a place I’d have taken the Lovely Mrs. McKay for anything short of a special occasion. But then, they treated us as if we were special. She’s now occupied identifying even more special occasions so that we can justify a quick return.

The moral? The same as the Apprentice episode. Customer service can raise your grade by at least 20%. When the product is marginal, but the service is good, customers will perceive your overall value to be fair. But when the product is good, and the customer service is even better, you turn your customers into evangelists. They’ll be winning people over for you. We hadn’t even left the parking lot before the Lovely Mrs. McKay was on the cell phone making the first of two calls in which she raved about the place.

Do people not do business with you because they don’t know about you? Or is it because they do? It’s what my partner Roy Williams calls the Personal Experience Factor.

My complements to Dustin Marshall, the General Manager of the Keg Restaurant, 5760 Southwest Loop 820, Ft. Worth. I’ve never met the man, but I’ve met his staff, and together they run an excellent facility.

What makes people do the things they do? Can advertising really change how customers think and feel? The simple truth is that most advertising isn’t working like it should. But why not?

BUSINESS OWNERS – You’re invited to a free, all-day seminar to be held April 5 at the Wizard Academy in Austin, Texas, entitled, “Advertising: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why.” This seminar will answer your questions about what to expect from the marketplace this year and beyond.

For more information, call 512-295-5700 or email Coordinator@WizardAcademy.com.

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