There are numerous ice cream franchises that are world renowned, Ben and Jerri’s, haagen daz, ciaobellagelato, Walls, the skinny cow to name but a few. Each has its own gimmick or advertising appeal to draw in their Customer base. But this one company ‘Amy’s Ice creams’ are really the pick of the bunch as far as an unusual jaw dropping Customer Experience is concerned.
Amy’s Ice cream was started back in 1984. It is a privately owned chain of ice cream shops in Texas with headquarters in Austin. It has been described as a “quintessentially Austin institution” which “dominates the local ice cream scene.” Amy’s ice cream is owned by Amy Simmons.
While in Boston, studying at University, Amy worked for a local company selling ice cream. After this seller was purchased by a larger corporation, Amy decided to go into business for herself. Amy and her business partner Scott Shaw eventually decided to open their ice cream shop in Austin. Amy went on to open 13 more locations, with the majority of them in Austin, one in Houston, and one in San Antonio.
Amy’s offers over 300 flavours of ice cream and fruit ices. Of this large number of flavours, only a small portion are available at a particular store at any given time, this variation keeps interest heightened by its customer’s.
But before you get bored and think why am I explaining about an ice cream company? I can divulge to you that it is not in fact the ice cream that attracts its customers in their droves but its staff. These’ scoopers’ as they are called and their marvellous antics with keep their customers loyal and coming back for more.
They are not just ice cream sellers but performers, developing their own bag of tricks and individual personality, entertaining their customers not only with their effervescent flair, but with rather alarming ice cream throws (It’s not unusual to see ice cream stuck out on nearby window sills in the street!).
The employees are the type of people no one else really wants to hire because of how they look on the outside (call it alternative, or whatever you like these people have characters and great loyalty for their brand). Amy’s seeks these people out, trains them to interact with people, and asks them to just be themselves and have fun. And they make Amy’s what it is – a unique and fun place to visit. There are stories about Amy’s training, teaching her ‘wacky’ staff to dance sing songs or play their own brand of music to excite a great Customer Experience.
To get a job at Amy’s you do not get an application form to fill in but instead you have to be able to show your creativity with a white paper bag. This idea began with an applicant who was given the bag instead of the job application after Amy’s had run out of the forms. The applicant floated the bag back into the store with helium balloons; inside the bag were items about her life. You guessed! She got the job!
At Amy’s it is quite commonplace to see employees tossing Ice cream scoops filled with ice cream over each other’s heads like jugglers in the ring of a circus performance. This establishment has some of the most loyal and cool staff (no pun intended) you could imagine.
This is all very well you may ask but what are the reviews of this ‘craziness’ you may ask, how it does well, when clearly it verges on the ridiculous?
Well here are just a few of them…..
‘When I walked into Amy’s for the first time ever, the line for ice cream wrapped all the way around the store. We got in line, hoping that the wait wouldn’t be too long or boring. Well, it wasn’t. As soon as we took our place in line, a little girl grabbed a set of hula hoops from the corner and started doing the most bad-ass hula hoop routine I have ever seen in the middle of the store! Soon, the entire line was clapping and cheering as this kid spun in circles and did tricks’.
‘Before long, we were at the counter and it was almost time to order. I was perusing the menu when I saw a man standing with an empty bowl at the back of the store. One of the ice cream scoopers then shouted to get everyone’s attention before flinging a gigantic scoop of ice cream clear across the store and into the man’s bowl. Now it was time to order’.
‘I ordered myself an Admiral Akbar’s Imperial Snack bar (sweet cream ice cream with snickers, nut butters, and pecan pralines) while my wife got a strawberry shortcake with vanilla wafers. The ice cream was phenomenal, and the scoopers must be jugglers or graduates of Clown College. Seriously, you have to come in and watch these guys work.’
‘I think it’s safe to say I’ve never seen anyone enjoy working at an ice cream parlour as much as these guys do. You cannot opt of having ice cream samples thrown at you in dramatic fashion…. which is pretty awesome if you ask me’.
‘Who doesn’t love an ice cream shop that throws samples at you?!
The ice cream was yummmmmmmmy! Although very very rich! (Make sure you ONLY get the small size!)’
‘The thing I remember most is the service. I really wished I loved my job as an engineer as much as they loved scooping ice cream!
The flavours that were offered were very very unique (and also managed to have the classics) If you go here, I promise you will NOT be disappointed! Make sure to have your old, getting dirty clothes on!’
‘I must stop giving 5-star reviews lately, but I just can’t help it! These local businesses are being 5-stars to me again and again and you gotta give credit where credit is due. Any place that has a policy of G I V I N G you free ice cream just for letting them throw it at you (pending that you are able to catch it from across the street) deserves some damn credit’.
So what you may say it still sounds ridiculous and the point? Well the point is that Amy’s exceeds $5 million in annual sales, and the company has grown from a single location in 1984 to over 14 stores today, and the more surprising part is that Amy’s Ice Creams keeps growing even though the company doesn’t advertise in general. Although it has a ‘fab’ website, everyone knows about Amy’s Ice Creams because everyone seems to enjoy talking about it. And, however good the product, it’s not the ice cream that has made word of mouth so effective for Amy’s. It’s what goes on at the store that people can’t stop talking about!
The company’s website says, “Amy’s looks at ‘going out for ice cream’ as a total sensory experience that can revitalize a less-than stellar day.” You really never know what will happen at Amy’s — and that’s a big part of the fun. Ice cream scoops are thrown from one server to another and caught in cups balanced on their chins. You’ll see ice cream slingers doing crazy dances, or fencing with cones, or sliding across the counters on their knees and bellies.
What can we learn in our organisations about this approach to ‘wowing’ your Customers and creating ongoing loyalty?The first steps to being real are defining the personality of your company, youcan hire employees who can deliver a personality to suit your brand, have the right team players.
Think about whether you’re giving your customers an experience they’d want to tell a friend about. Have you ever heard customers rave about the uniqueness of your company? Is there a difference between you and your competitors, otherwise people will only come to you when it is convenient and not for ongoing loyalty? Do your customers ‘rave’ about your business to friends and colleagues?
Does your own brand of uniqueness keep drawing your customers back, if not why not? You must provide a unique, fulfilling experience for your customers. If you do this, you’ll earn their lifetime loyalty. How will you differentiate your business? Who is your dream customer?
Once you’ve narrowed down your target customer and are confident that you have the right staff, and then it is time to figure out what makes your customer tick. Remember the atmosphere you create, the products you sell, the services you offer, or the theme you incorporate throughout.
And most of all have fun!