Customer Service – Expectation vs. Reality


We have all experienced a disconnect with what we expect and what we receive. The picture of the food looks nothing like what we get in the package. Sometimes it comes as a big shock because the discrepancy is so obvious and it warrants comment. Such a situation happened to me recently. I ordered a Steak Skillet at a fast casual family restaurant (I won’t mention the name, but it rhymes with Denny’s) because the amount of food was impressive. I would go home full plus something for lunch the next day.  The reality was that I went away hungry and angry. Not only was the food about a third of what was shown, but the customer service surrounding this obvious error compounded the situation. According to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated so not all is lost when an experience starts to go bad.

This experience really started with the waiter asking if everything looked good.  I showed him my mostly empty plate and asked where the rest of the food was. He mumbled something about being sorry I didn’t like the portion and ran away from our table. I didn’t realize potatoes had gotten that expensive. Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time according to Lee Resources, ignore the complaint and you compound the problem. Honestly, I expect a lot of potatoes and filler in a meal like this, eggs and meat are pricey in comparison.

The next misstep was when he made sure to not check on us through the rest of the meal, probably because he could tell I wasn’t happy with the response. A Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow showed the top two reasons for customer loss is that customers feel poorly treated and a failure to solve a problem in a timely manner.

The last misstep was when we went to pay and we were asked if everything was ok. I told them no and why. The response was “Oh, sorry. I hope you come back anyway”. After paying $12 for $4 worth of food? I doubt it. Of course now, as usually happens with bad experiences, I tell everyone.  An American Express Survey in 2011 told us that Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.

Why does one bad experience matter?

It is well know that keeping a customer is more cost effective than acquiring new ones.  On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. Gaining them back is also a costly proposition.  Ruby Newell-Legner writes in “Understanding Customers” that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. According to NewVoiceMedia, an estimated $41 billion is lost by U.S. companies alone each year due to poor customer service.

How can your company avoid the same mistakes when things go wrong?

1) Match the customer expectations to the delivery. Under-promise and over -deliver isn’t just cliché, it makes happy customers. If under promising is your policy, even when your company has a bad day (which will happen) you are likely to please the customer anyway, or come very close to what you told them. Example, Village Inn has a similar picture on their menu for a skillet but the amount of food you get surpasses the picture. I rarely eat half and it is the same price as the-place-that shall-not-be-named. Which restaurant do you think I will be giving my business to? “Always do more than is required of you.” – George S. Patton

2) Fix the problem. At least make an attempt to make the problem right. If potatoes are too expensive, offer some toast to fill out the meal. Ran out of an item they need? Offer alternatives with a slight discount. At least make an effort to make things right with the customer when they complain. Not every customer will be happy, but a little effort can save quite a few. Lee Resources says that 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again and Zendesk says 39% of customers avoid vendors for 2+ years after a bad experience. “Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.” – Alan Weiss

 “News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. The Takeaway – Take the time to address unhappy customers and do everything in your power to remedy the situation. It’s not only worth keeping their business, but also avoiding any negative word of mouth exposure.” –  White House Office of Consumer Affairs


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s