Posted by: kevinliebl | August 15, 2010

One Employee Can Make the Difference

Customer SatisfactionMy 12-year-old son returned from a week of summer camp today.  On the way home he stopped telling stories just long enough to ask, “Can we get pizza?”  Apparently, depriving a 12-year-old from pizza for a week is cruel and unusual punishment.

We stopped at one of our favorite Italian restaurants on the way home and he devoured a cheese pizza.  Oh, to have the metabolism of a teenager.  The service at the restaurant was predictably good and it reminded me why we like to eat there.  Not only is the food excellent, the prices reasonable, but the service is consistently good.

On the other hand, I could name several restaurants that, as a family, we have decided never to attend again.  In fact, it has become a family inside joke when we drive by certain chains to say, “nope, can’t eat there anymore”.  Or “behave or we will take you to XYZ restaurant”.

I attended a presentation this week on branding where the speaker asked, “How many people in the audience have had a bad experience with a service organization, and based on that single experience, have chosen never to do business with the company again?”  Most of the people in the room raised their hands.  Then he asked, “How many of you were negatively affected by a single employee?”  Most of the hands stayed up.  Next he asked, “How many of you have decided to avoid the entire company, not just the single store, or location?”  Again, most of the hands stayed up.

This exercise reminds us that purchase decisions are more emotional than rational.  The reality is that the single employee can’t affect the service experience at another location, and they may not even work at your local store any more.  However, most of us make an emotional decision never to visit the entire chain again based on a single negative experience.  Conversely, most of us can point to examples where a company went above and beyond normal expectations to provide exceptional service and gained loyal customers for life.

Never underestimate the value of a single act of courtesy or a single act of unprofessionalism.  One positive or negative experience can influence a customer’s perceived value of a company for a lifetime.  Additionally, customers are not shy in sharing their views with others.  Therefore, that single event can also ripple through the marketplace by word of mouth, and now instantaneously through social media.  A single event can create a “tipping point” that can shift market perception of your company.

In our case today, the food was exceptional, the prices were reasonable and our service was predictably very good.  Our waiter treated us like we were his only customer and connected with each one of us at the table.  Ironically, positive customer service takes less effort than negative service.  When you impress a customer, they give you the benefit of the doubt.  However, when you offend a customer, you spend significantly more effort trying to turn them around.  Every interaction with your customer is an opportunity to move the needle in either a positive or negative direction.  Never pass up the opportunity to reinforce the positive experience.

If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will. – Unknown


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  1. So true Kevin. While I can’t reference the source, I recall reading that people will generally share a good experience with 1-2 people but will share a negative one with 7 or more.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    I read your entire post to my team at Walgreens this morning. I paused to ask them the question, “How many people in the audience have had a bad experience with a service organization, and based on that single experience, have chosen never to do business with the company again?” and half the hands went up.

    Excellent post. Thank you!!!


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