I Wasn’t Expecting That…and It Wasn’t Good

Read any number of blogs about customer experience or follow some of the many twitter hashtags on the subject, and you’ll experience a popular theme.  It’s this notion that, in order to earn the loyalty, future patronage and word of mouth from your customers, you must consistently exceed their expectations.

Many often refer to this story from Morton’s Steakhouse as the greatest customer service experience ever.  I’m not one.  While it was brilliant and garnered the restaurant some terrific free publicity, it was at the end of the day a PR stunt that is neither scalable nor available to customers who’s on-line influence in this area doesn’t rival that of Peter Shankman.

I’m not suggesting the following is happening.  But, think about this scenario.  What if, while Morton’s is delivering steaks all over the Metro New York region, the turn around time from the kitchen starts creeping northward.  In the rush to get food out to diners, the steaks get a little more rare than requested.  The returns back to the kitchen begin to increase.  The staff starts feeling the pressure and starts turning over.  And then the downward spiral has begun.

I’m of the mind that it’s not the big bang theory that will ultimately determine the winners from the losers in the customer experience design olympics.  The medals (long term profits and repeat customers) will go to those that understand their customers and delivery an experience that satisfies what those customers are trying to solve for. 

Consistency wins over the roller coaster ride.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t equate consistency with complacency and status quo.  Customer’s needs are continually morphing.  So, the well designed experience needs to continually adjust as well.  However, I would argue that for any brand, its customers will have a core set of needs over time.  However, delivering on the basics time and time again seems to be traded often in exchange for the new shiny WOW trinket.  Humm…may customer service IS the new marketing (campaign)?  I digress.

Case in point.

Those of you with whom I’m connected on Facebook know that I frequent a particular casual dining chain often enough so it has become a running joke everytime I check in.  So, by most accounts, I’d be considered a pretty loyal customer.  The share of my casual dining wallet spent with this brand is fairly high.

Over the past year or so, this chain has done all the stuff you’re supposed to do in a “like” me-driven consumer world.  Problem is that the basics, the reasons I go to this particular place, have started to suffer.

After a train wreck of an experience yesterday, I started to think back.  Yes, over the past few months, the service has started to slow.  The number of errors has increased.  Not just yesterday, but for a while.  The quality of the product has deteriorated.  Blips on the radar.  Hardly noticable at the time.  But, in reflection, little signs of something brewing.  It wasn’t until yesterday, when it blew up, that it seemed to have come to anyone’s attention at the restaurant.

So, the next time you’re racking your brain to come up with the next WOW, maybe you should focus instead on delivering “Ahhh, that was just right”.

Comments

  1. You make a good point here about being known to be consistent and reliable. However, in the automotive industry we work hard to change the buying experience from a scary and intimidating venture to something that can be enjoyable. We like to have consistent "WOW" moments everyday that show our customers we are doing things right.

  2. Great post. I think you're absolutely right on the subject of consistency. I too wonder whether customer service 'is' the new marketing campaign (http://blog.customersure.com/2011/05/18/customer-service-the-future-of-sexy-marketing/). However as you've pointed out, they key thing is *delivering* service consistently, not talking about it. Sadly we see many marketing campaigns that *talk* about customer service, when success actually lies in quietly getting on with it so that your customers talk about it.

  3. Thanks for the comment Bill. I think where we also agree is in the act that you incorporate consistent WOW everyday into the experience you deliver. That is a key – to start with design. If you're designing that type of experience from the start, and it's aala lee, repeatable, then that is a solid approach

  4. Let's hope it doesn't become common place where customer service becomes just another tag line. Thanks for the comment!

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