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One Rockette can spoil the whole show

I was fortunate to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall as a young boy. I distinctly remember waiting, maybe even hoping, for one of them to go out of sync. The brain loves the exceptions, seizing on that one erroneous dancer instead of the other 35.

My mother in law told me a long story about how a housekeeper at her hotel didn’t replenish the teabags in her room. She went on and on about this frustration. What’s surprising about this story is because it bugged her so much, it overshadowed all my recollections of her other experiences with the hotel. So that one teabag was all it took.

One lapse in customer service can kill trust, pleasure, overall brand satisfaction. One might say it’s not fair when a company works so hard and has such a high percentage of good experiences, or at a minimum “non-bad” ones.

There are many, many Domino’s Pizza employees who haven’t posted YouTube videos of them messing with customers’ orders, or treating the kitchen inappropriately. Those aren’t the ones you’ll remember.

How to combat it? First, give up on thinking your brand is immune. Next, enjoy that the opposite effect is also true: people will go out of their way to remember a gesture that surprises them. And lastly, instill a culture of empowering your team (maybe even requiring it?) to create a memorable brand experience. It’s counter-intuitive if your team is “busy” – they will perceive that’s a luxury for someone who has a less-full plate. But it’s ironically the ONE thing that the customer may actually remember.

The housekeeping staff at an Mexico all-inclusive hotel noticed that I had finished both the Diet Cokes in the room fridge. So rather than replenish them with the required, minimum amount, they put four of them in the fridge. Maybe it was to save them time from being asked for a refill, but all I remember is that I tell this story ALL the time to people – I was so pleased by the gesture that it’s virtually all I remember about the hotel stay. Not the pool, not the beach, not the food. Just that they went out of their way for a simple gesture. The maid will certainly not get acknowledged for it (I don’t know who did it, and their management is unlikely to care or notice), but it is a crucial factor in the brand experience.

So you can seize on the one Rockette in your organization that disappoints a customer. Or you can try the “we can’t win ‘em all” approach and come up with an “acceptable” level of customer dissatisfaction. Or you can focus on dazzling existing customers and prospective customers. It’s usually free or close to no cost, it allows your creative staff to be REALLY creative, and it creates the only buzz that really matters: authentic, personal surprises that keep a smile on someone’s face.


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