December 21, 2009

Customer Perspective

Customer's continue to shop with you because you're consistent. You get it right every time. Customers want to be treated fairly and consistently whenever they visit. If they order a Whopper, they have an expectation. Same with a Big Mac. It's the same in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, as it is in Brandon, Florida. Or Washington, D.C.

What happens when you become inconsistent and deliver lousy service or product to the customer? (Disclaimer: I am not indicating at all that I know any reason why the above business is closed and abandoned. It's just an appropriate picture to use.)

You know your pizza is going to be delicious when "the old lady" is working at Main Street Pizza. Amber and Courtney figured this out years ago. We would have Friday night pizza night. Sometimes the pizza was out of this world, and sometimes it wasn't so good. One time Amber said, "Well, was the old lady working? The pizza's always good if she's working." Perspective from a child, but true.

When you go to Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which we do way too often, if the "manager dude" is working, your smoothie will be done the right way. If not, your Beach Bum may be too chocolate– or banana–flavored.

Does it get to be too much, though, when you're managing a store like Kohl's? The story from two different cashiers can be totally different: "No, you're way off on getting another $10 Kohl's Cash" or "If you purchase one more item, you'll qualify." Sure, this is service and not food, but it's inconsistent.

It's not whether you win or lose with your customer, it's how you play the game. You have to work with your customers to give them the best experience possible. They might not get the answer they want (the customer is not always absolutely right!), but if they can understand where you're coming from (and it makes sense!) then they're more likely to return. Furthermore, if their Big Mac tastes right, then the experience works. McDonald's employees don't get the opportunity to experiment with your burgers, fries, or shakes; it's all part of their process.

Customers don't mind being "wrong," but they don't like to be "wronged." Moreover, inconsistencies damage business reputations more than anything we do. Is there an art to making a pizza or smoothie? Should a peperoni and ham pizza taste different just because "the old lady" is not working? How about a smoothie? Is there room for "experiment"?

The modern shopper wants the shop to meet a certain set of expectations.

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