Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 11, 2007

popcorn.jpgA number of bloggers recently have been creating a great discussion on customer service quality.  In particular, Mike Wagner from Own Your Brand! started a conversation in his post Customer Service: Lessons from the Heart.   He bravely shares this about a hospital experience he had:

Customers need you to manage their experience. Great customer service anticipates confusion, concerns, and questions.

Great care was taken to manage my expectations – they anticipated my worries. I was told what it would be like when I awoke from my operation and what would hurt – and why. I was told ahead of time about each stage in my recovery.

The key here is managing not just the experience but also the customer’s expectations.  Contrast Mike’s experience with a story from David Polinchock of Experience Manifesto about a recent experience at the movies that fell short because expectations weren’t properly managed when the theater lost power. 

But, during this entire time, not a single person from the theatre came in to tell us what was going on. There wasn’t even someone in the lobby until about 10 minutes into the problem. It’s annoying to have to stand in the dark without anyone telling you what’s happening.

When customer expectations are well-managed, the customer experience is usually a positive one.  The rubber meets the road, however, when things go wrong as they did for David and his family at the movies.  Lack of communication is often a hallmark of poor planning on the part of the organization.  When customers don’t know what is happening, they begin to imagine the worst.  Even a quick, short report of what might be going on will help to calm customers.  Setting expectations of what might happen next helps them figure out how they will view this experience.

My family had a similar movie experience when the sound stopped working at the theater.  Within a minute or so, the theater manager came out and told us they would need to repair the projector, which would take 15-20 minutes.  In the meantime, they invited us to come out to the lobby for free popcorn and drinks! 

Communication took place right away.  Expectations were set about how long we would have to wait.  Compensation was offered (the popcorn and drinks didn’t cost the theater much money at all!).  We were able to achieve our end-goal (watch the movie).  What could have turned into a major inconvenience and frustration became a positive experience.  We continued to frequent that theater for some time after that, telling friends about the great way we were treated. 

What is your strategy for managing your customers and their experiences?  Giving great customer service when all goes well is not simple.  Giving great customer service when things go poorly is critical not only to recovering from the problem but also to getting a customer to return. 

This is where the rubber truly meets the road.

(Photo credit: valerika)


5 Responses to “Where the Rubber Meets the Road”

  1. The great thing about customer service is that it has the opportunity to turn something frustrating or confusing into something unique, memorable and often times rewarding. Your story about getting free popcorn and drinks at the movie theater perfectly illustrates this point. Waiting for the projector to be repaired is no longer a problem–it’s an opportunity for the theater to make a positive lasting impression on everyone in attendance.

    Good customer service recognizes these opportunities. They LOVE when they happen. They welcome them with open arms and understand the inherent, potential value in each and every one of them. And perhaps most importantly, they approach them with a smile rather than just an apology.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Ryan. I agree that one can possibly turn something bad into something good if it is looked at as an opportunity rather than as a problem. Setting the proper expectations immediately helps. Of course, the best problem is no problem at all, but if we can’t avoid a problem, using a smile with the apology goes a long way towards fixing things!

  3. Great post, Becky. This does appear to be a popular subject lately. I had some interesting experiences with this past week.

    Still not Twitering I see 🙂


  4. Thanks, Doug, for sharing your story, too, via your great blog! I think this is a popular subject as we can all relate to it.

    Haven’t gotten into Twittering yet, although I do have my Twitter account!

  5. […] how I can relate with this post and this post — managing expectations, or lack […]

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