Sarah Engel
12 — 18 — 2018

3 Lessons in Customer Experience from the Cronut.

A few years ago, in a small Soho bakery in New York City, chef Dominique Ansel created the Cronut; a croissant built into a doughnut rolled in sugar and filled with cream. The sweet treat went viral overnight, creating infamous lines of locals and tourists alike, and a frenzy of online traffic that boosted his visitors by 300%.

The Cronut craze sparked wonder and curiosity over its instant popularity. So what can we learn from this as we look to create memorable brand experiences?

First, the opportunity to create joy with your products and services has the potential to cause a ripple effect that inspires stories for years to come. And it has a direct correlation to customer retention and the bottom line of your business.

Somewhere between foodies, app lovers, tech enthusiasts, retail shoppers, and frequent flyers we all resonate with stories told about the brands who put customers first and create the best customer experience, which is why it’s so easy to name them ie; Apple, Amazon, Nordstrom and Southwest.

Dominique offers much wisdom for brands as you look to create more meaningful connections with customers in 2019.

Here are three lessons in Customer Experience from the Cronut:

Dominique’s love of baking and his relentless obsession with his own product caused a foodie phenomenon, resulting in passionate customers spreading the word far and wide. From Grub Hub to Instagram, every customer shared his or her love of the Cronut on and offline. This was not a marketing tactic; it was the result of creating something truly wonderful, something that would satisfy every sweet craving.

“As a business owner you really adapt your concept, your ideas, your product, your service based on the location and your customers.”

His focus on creating a product with creativity and innovation was intentional. As a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, he knew more than the fundamentals of baking, but he still took two months and perfected the Cronut through more than 10 recipe attempts.

“The business here is about creativity…From day one, we have been creating new products for our customers, and we will keep doing what we were doing before, and keep innovating. That’s always the focus.”

And in keeping with the spirit of innovation, each location features a new flavor every month, never repeating a flavor. Even with high-demand, Ansel limits production to 300 Cronuts per day for the store, allowing no other 100 or so in special orders. This focus on quality is what keeps people coming back, knowing each time they will get a perfect creation in a gold box.

Takeaway: Create a product your customers will love, and keep innovating; never sacrificing creativity or quality.

“Don’t be a chef that stays in the kitchen.” This could not be a greater truth. Most industries today are crowded with competition; from brick and mortar businesses to online consumer products; differentiation in customer experience is critical for brands. To meet the growing demands of digital customers, brands need to offer something at a deeper level.

That’s why brands can’t afford to sit behind the computer. It is more important than ever to engage directly with customers; ask them what they enjoy, get to know their personal preferences and understand how you can make the experience better.

“Put customer first. Just show customers you really care.”

It’s seems like a simple motto, but often we forget to line up all the pieces, brand values, product, service and culture. And all too often we are left with a lackluster interaction with a brand, but don’t have a way to share the feedback. That’s when brands lose customers.

Dominique knew how to align each of these, staying close to the customer. He’s not only a face you see when you visit their Soho location, but the experience his staff creates deliberately intends to delight customers. They often visit line goers, who sometimes sit for, to deliver freshly baked madeleines, coffee and even a rose on Valentine’s day.

“The thought of coming early on a cold day…I want to make sure they have at least something nice, something sweet from us, just to let them know that we know they are there. It’s cold and I really want to take good care of them.”

Takeaway: The customer should always come first. Gather feedback, and find ways to delight people by going above and beyond.

Dominique scaled to over 5 locations across the globe in London, LA, Tokyo and New York, now managing hundreds of employees, sometimes from 7000 miles away.

His detail-oriented approach includes a policy against moodiness and rudeness in the kitchen and meticulous oversight of operations. The result he says, is a more organized, better culture.

With this in mind, he hopes to create a unity of his brand where customers can expect the products to taste the same regardless of the location. To ensure excellence he has managers and chefs send him daily photos of the store and their pastries in the morning so they can discuss and address issues before customers arrive.

Culture is not only within, but can spill over into how customers perceive you. Your product and and employees who engage with your customers on the front lines ARE the experience.

Often the paradox of scaling your business, adding locations and hiring additional team members can cause challenges. But, once again Dominique set out with the intention to define his brand values and scale with quality and customer experience at the core. A great final lesson from this talented chef!

Takeaway: Don’t sacrifice values or quality as you grow, create a cohesive strategy that aligns your brand values with culture and customer experience. These should never exist separately but instead should be the foundation.

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