Last week I was on a family trip to both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We drove down from Traverse City, MI and rented a cabin up in the Smoky Mountains. Now—last time I visited the land of the "Shine," I was too young to indulge, so this time around it was a top priority.
Stop #1 — Davey Crockett's Distillery
The building was unique and while the bartender was a young guy with a few jokes to help keep things lively, the place was a bit dead. Maybe I like starting early on my vacations but I was hoping for a bigger crowd. That concern quickly dissolved when I discovered that they not only had moonshine but also a host of flavors of my favorite adult beverage....whiskey! Needless to say, I was one happy camper—tasted all six moonshines and five whiskeys. While my intention was to grab a few bottles on the way back to the car, I really didn't know what the next few stops would have in store.
Stop #2 — Sugarlands Distilling Company
Next up—Sugarlands Distilling Company. I have to start by saying Sugarland's Shine was a big disappointment. The customer experience was poor and certainly won't have me recommending the location to any of my friends. Bartenders were in street clothes and there was no effort made to differentiate Shiner's from the competition. Nevertheless, a free tasting is a free tasting so I of course tried all 5 flavors but left with no interest of returning on a future trip to Gatlinburg. Davey Crockett's was for sure getting my money at this point but I had one more stop to go.
Stop #3 — Ole Smoky Moonshine
Now—on my way into Pigeon forge there were Ole Smoky Moonshine billboards everywhere. The truth is, I'm not a big fan of the "commercial enterprise" that has their brand plastered everywhere. I like the small, unique restaurants, stores and shops that you need to discover and not always be led to. Despite the bad taste that the billboard advertising gave me, my opinion quickly changed upon entering their location.
As we walked in, there was a live band playing blue grass and country. Banjo twangs—guitar strums—harmonica shakes and drum beats. I'm a big fan of music so this was the perfect start to the Ole Smoky experience.
Unlike Sugarlands', the bartenders were dressed in work boots and overalls with a strap undone and of course, they all talked with a nice thick Tennessee accent. There were about six tasting bars open and each and every one of them were packed with people smiling and having a good ole time. I listened around to the other tenders—each one had their own pitch and jokes for every one of the moonshines. There were thirteen flavors in all and I tried each and every one of them. This stuff will warm you up pretty darn quick if you're ever cold. While it was 50 degrees outside I felt like I was next to a huge fire in the middle of summer. Aside from White Lightnin', strawberry was my favorite—with grape a close second.
During our Ole Smoky Moonshine stop, I did come to find out that this is their only location...so they must do one heck of a job getting the name out there (billboards didn't bother me as much anymore). I left our third stop with a case of moonshine—12 jars. The bartenders make a little commission off what you buy so I was sure to let them know our bartender, Jethro, helped us out. Oh—and also I got three free t-shirts for buying a case!
At the end of the day, Davey Crockett's Distillery and Sugarlands Distilling Company missed out on ole TJ spending some good money on moonshine. Ole Smoky just did it up right—I would be surprised if anyone left that store empty handed. Music—a unique & fun atmosphere—laughs—and most important, moonshine. There's a reason Ole Smoky's is the #1 moonshine in Tennessee—customer experience.
Your customer experience ranges from your website to your physical location and the conversations you have with both potential and existing customers—it all helps shape your customer's perception of your brand. When your customer experience and goals don't align, it might be time to take a big step back. At the end of the day, our goal is to the make things easier for our customers while producing a higher quality product twice as fast as the competition. If your first impression of TentCraft doesn't align with those goals, we would like to know.