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A “Customer Experience Myth”… or cop out!

Okay, in introducing me onto the Fast Company Customer First Blog, David Lidsky said he enjoyed a heated debate with me and thought I might provoke some discussion. So I don’t want to disappoint him. What David and I have debated is that a customer could have an experience that might not be perfect in delivering all the basics, but is so fulfilling emotionally, that they will be compelled to tell others about the experience and return willingly again and again.

Okay, in introducing me onto the Fast Company Customer First Blog, David Lidsky said he enjoyed a heated debate with me and thought I might provoke some discussion. So I don’t want to disappoint him.

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What David and I have debated is that a customer could have an experience that might not be perfect in delivering all the basics, but is so fulfilling emotionally, that they will be compelled to tell others about the experience and return willingly again and again.

You see, I believe customers are not at all logical in the way they bond to experiences. In fact, customers tally a bunch of what I call experience clues. They process some of these clues in their conscious thoughts and others in their non conscious thoughts. In clue math, one plus one does not equal two.

I cite an example of receiving a “crappy haircut” but because during the experience I felt great about myself – pampered, confident, and refreshed,- I have returned there, given them another chance to give me a better haircut, and continued to go there again and again and again. The interesting thing is that the shop is in Toronto and I live in Minneapolis. I go out of my way to get a haircut there every time I can (more than 20 visits in three years). I’ve even been to other locations of the same chain in London and Chicago.

There’s another example that I’ve cited in my writing, which is the restaurant Durgin Park in Boston. For three or more generations the surly waitstaff there have insulted and trivialized any semblance of attentive and personal service. Yet it’s become a legendary experience that people continuously recommend to others.

I believe that when experiences are authentic and create emotional connections they bond us in ways that create extraordinary loyalty. It is not about ritualized rules like “look the customer in the eye, walk them to the door and thank them for their business, or robotic scripts delivered with a look on your face like you just had liver for lunch.

In my eyes it’s all about emotional connection.

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Think about the times you’ve given an organization a break, a second chance, or even overlooked obvious flaws because there’s a benefit you feel you receive from the experience.

Understanding and engineering the balance is the key. You can spin your wheels doing the basics and still only create a commoditized, mediocre experience. On the surface it may seem OK, but without addressing the emotional connection, people will be unlikely to to tell others about it and come back again and again.

What do you think?