Every business has the potential to subject customers to an occasional "oops" moment... but some businesses are better equipped to recover from those mishaps than others.
Recently, a client with offices in a remote section of Canada asked me to help with some strategy planning. They kindly put me up in a charming little inn by a secluded lake. The setting couldn't have been more beautiful.
But... there were a number of service-related issues that I found aggravating.
Among these problems: no shampoo or soap in the shower, (only discoverable while one was actually in the shower, thanks to the wall-mounted squeeze-bottle dispensers favored by the innkeeper), no air conditioning to dispel the heat and humidity... and a temperamental Internet connection that left me cut off from the outside world, unless I went to the conference room and set up my lap top on the ping-pong table.
Normally, problems like these would have lit my fuse and launched me on a mission to track down the innkeeper and have a little chat about service quality expectations.
THE MARKETING TAKEAWAYS:
But I didn't have that chat. So, I started to think about why I had not complained.
I realized what a great job the management of that inn had done in "insuring" itself against "oops" moments like the ones I had experienced with the missing soap and the unreliable wireless connections. That customer insurance policy took the form of superb service interactions with all the staff at the inn.
For instance: One evening, after I noticed the sign informing guests that breakfast was not served until 8:30 am, I asked the staff to prepare something I could take with me as I left early the next morning for my client meeting. They not only had breakfast waiting for me, but they also asked if I wanted to take a seat in the dining room, which was still being set up, and relax as I ate.
During breakfast, I happened to compliment the chef on his excellent fresh gooseberry muffins. He said thanks and proactively offered to prepare an early breakfast the next day.
When I arrived for breakfast the following day, the chef came out with a bowl of fresh gooseberries he had prepared based on my comments the prior day.
These were just a few of perhaps a dozen great face-to-face interactions with the staff during my 3 day stay at that little inn.
Management had trained every staff member, from the chef to the gardener, to deliver consistently exceptional service. As a result, every interaction built positive emotional equity with me.
Those positive "deposits" in the "bank" of emotional experience not only built up my sense of satisfaction with the place, but they also made it much easier for me to overlook the occasional "oops" moments.
The more complex your business, the more likely you are to inadvertently deliver an "oops" moment to a customer.
In fact, "oops" moments are pretty much inevitable. You can't eliminate all of them. The question is, how good are you at compensating for them by making regular deposits in the emotional bank accounts of your customers?
Ask yourself and your management team:
How much emotional equity are we building up during every single interaction with customers? How easy are we making it for our customers to look past the occasional mishap ... and look forward to interacting with us again?
Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.
Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Ernan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine.
His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.
Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."