That's a ridiculous sandwich.
And not the greatest photo, admittedly. That's what it looked like as leftovers about six hours after a recent team lunch.
But this big, gooey monstrosity is the centerpiece of one of the greatest customer experiences I've ever had.
And it possesses an idea every company can learn from.
Let me explain.
Every Customer an Expert
One of the greatest methods to earn customer loyalty is to make your customers experts at what you do.
The more they know about it, the more they'll see that you do it better than anyone else.
Or even better, they'll use their newfound expertise to make your product or service invaluable.
Think of an iPhone. It's great out of the box. But add some apps, connect the user's Instagram account, get them using Apple Health - now it's invaluable. The user makes it personal and impossible to walk away from.
How to Reheat a Leftover Sandwich
So I ate the first half of the sandwich, but couldn't even think about going after the second half. I asked the waiter for a to-go box.
Foodies among us know that sandwiches don't make for great leftovers. Especially sandwiches that have gooey dressing, cabbage, melty cheese, and soggy bread.
I didn't expect my leftover sandwich to be very good, but the first half of it was so tasty I'd accept even a mediocre leftover experience.
In other words. I was already sold and satisfied.
The server set the take home container in front of me. Then, unprompted, he leaned down and said, "When you want to eat the rest of the sandwich, don't try to reheat it. Just take it out of the fridge, and let it sit for 25 minutes.
"It'll be even better than it is right now."
What?! "How could it be better than it is right now?" I asked.
"It'll maintain its current consistency, I promise. The bread will hold up. Don't ruin it by sticking it in a microwave, which'll screw up the bread and make the cabbage nuclear while everything else is cold."
I didn't ask for leftover reheating tips. Maybe the servers give everyone the same piece of advice. I also don't know if setting a sandwich out for 25 minutes is the healthiest choice.
But at that moment I felt like I had been let in on some ancient wisdom. I couldn't wait to get to the second half of the sandwich, to see if his "even better" claim was true.
And really, all the server was trying to do is give me a path to the best possible experience with his product.
He made me an expert.
Build That Instruction Manual
We're in an era where instruction manuals aren't cool. People like to figure things out for themselves.
Except, most businesses have learned that most people will figure out just enough about a product to make it work. And something that works isn't enough to earn customer engagement and repeat business.
Build an instruction manual, even if it's just online. Or build an app, as Apple quietly did with "Tips."
Create a forum for members to share tips and best practices.
Don't be afraid to pivot your marketing when your can opener is used more often as a bottle opener, to give an example.
Make your customers experts. Give them the path to get the best personal experience using your service or product, and they'll feel the same way I do about this little deli.
Speaking of, the server was right.
Later that night I sat my leftover sandwich on the counter, and let it return to room temperature. It was absolutely better than it was the first time around. I don't know if it's because I daydreamed about eating it all day or if I cognitively biased myself to believe the server, but it doesn't matter.
I've told a bunch of friends about the deli. I Instagrammed the leftovers. I'm writing about the experience for you.
All because the business gave me the knowledge I needed to have the best experience.