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Can a positive outcome erase a bad customer experience? - Alan Berg CSP, Wedding Business Solutions PodcastCan a positive outcome erase a bad customer experience?

I recently had a problem with a product that ended well, with the company replacing the damaged one, but I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. But why? I got what I wanted in the end. This was a great lesson to share because we have to realize that our goal is more than just to get the customer what they want and need. It’s to make them feel great about the process and interaction.

Listen to this new 12-minute episode for the rest of the story, and some tips on how you can become more aware of the customer experience, not just their results.

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– Can a positive outcome, overcome a negative beginning to the experience? Listen to this episode. See what I’m talking about. 

Hi, it’s Alan Berg. Welcome back to another episode of the “Wedding Business Solutions Podcast.” This is a personal experience of mine but it relates to a lot of things that we experience as consumers and as businesses. I had a situation that ended up positively but still left a bad taste in my mouth, and this comes back to the customer experience. So let me tell you the experience first. I bought a piece of luggage because it had a particular feature to it. I wanted to try hard-sided luggage. I’ve been using soft-sided luggage. And what I didn’t like about them was that they all opened kind of 50:50, the zipper in the middle and they opened like a clam shell, half and half. Whereas the soft-sided luggage, you unzip it at the one end and you have a hundred percent of the depth. 

So I kind of like that ’cause you could stuff more things in and taller things and stuff like that. But I saw this one bag by a major international manufacturer, a higher priced bag, very good quality, so I was led to believe by the price and by the reputation of it. And it was two third, one third so it wasn’t down the middle. I’d give you a little more depth on the one side. And I said, “You know what? Let me give this a shot.” I travel so much I can justify paying more for better quality and for a particular feature. I had the bag 11 months. I went to the airport at the beginning of an eight-day, three-city, five-event trip. And I get to the airport and I get out of the car and I push the button to pull up the retractable handle and the handle goes up and comes off in my hand, breaks off, off in my hand. 

So now I’m at the airport, beginning of this trip. I have my two suitcases. I have a carry-on size and I have this check bag. And what am I going to do? I’m at the airport, I have to leave. So there’s two metal rods literally sticking up out of this thing where the handle is supposed to be holding them down. I go in, I check in and I said, “Do you have any tape? I want to tape these metal rods down so that nobody gets hurt in your baggage handling over here.” All they had was red fragile stickers, so literally put these bright red fragile stickers over them. And I check the bags. I go in, I go through security, I go up to the United Club. I’m a United Frequent Flyer, I go to the club and I call the toll-free number for customer service. And it answers and says, “Somebody will be with you shortly.” And nobody picks up, and it just goes on and on and on and nobody picks up. But they kept saying, it kept saying that if you push one, we can text with you. And I’m like, well, after I don’t know how long it was, a half an hour or more, I was like, “Fine.” 

I push one and I get a text back and saying, “Somebody will be with you shortly,” and nobody does. So I went on to Twitter, oh, it’s not Twitter anymore, it’s X. And I went to, I’ll still call it Twitter. And I went to Twitter to shame them. So I went to their profile and I sent a message saying that, you know, this is not great customer service and they’re tagged in it. This is not great customer service. I expect more from your brand, your reputation and the quality and the price that you spend, you would expect better customer service. And I put pictures of the bag with the red stickers on it and the handle in my hand. I have a picture of the handle in my hand, and nothing. Whereas usually when you do that, and I only do that when I’m not getting customer service elsewhere, trying the regular channels. Usually, you get a response right away. I’ve had that from airlines, I’ve had that from other companies. And again, fortunately not that often, but when I do, you get a response right away.

And I’ve heard from other people the same thing. Nothing. In the meantime, I get a response on the text 12 minutes later. Now, just think about this. I’ve waited on hold for a half an hour, nobody picks up. And now it took 12 minutes for somebody to get on with texting, where texting, the expectation is this is going to be right away. Kind of like live chatting, right? Supposed to chat with someone. So finally, I’m texting back and forth and the person’s telling me they’re very sorry, and if I bring the bag into a store, they’ll send it out for repair and send it back to me. And I said, “How does that help me at the beginning of an eight-day, three-city trip? What am I supposed to do with the stuff that’s in the bag right now?” Right? I would expect that they would replace the bag since it’s not even a year old, okay? And that’s where it left off. 

So being a speaker, if you provide me with a great customer experience or a terrible customer experience, I’m going to talk about it on stage. So it’s fresh in my mind and it’s let’s call it a fresh wound. I get into the first city that I’m going to and I speak the next day and I’m on stage talking about sales and talking about customer experience and I bring up this story and I mention, I drop the name of the company there because again, if you give me great or terrible, you’re going to get talked about. Well, I get off stage and one of the other speakers says, “You know, I think I know someone at this company.” I said, “Really? Could you reach out to them?” 

So they went on to LinkedIn, reached out to them, hadn’t spoken to them a while, tell ’em the story, connects me with that person, going back and forth. Turns out that they’re able to find that one of the regional managers is going to be in a city near where I’m going to be, not where I’m going to be. They find that they have the same bag. I don’t even care what the color is at this point. They find they have the same bag and that manager goes gets the bag, drives it probably over an hour to the store that’s closest to me. I’m able to then go in, get the bag, give ’em the broken bag and take my bag. 

So the end result is I got a replacement bag, brand new bag, right? Same one that I had, brand new bag. But why don’t I feel good about the experience? And this is what I wanted to talk about here. You can make the customer happy leaving a bad taste in their mouth all the way. And I think many of us can attest to the same experience where you eventually got satisfaction, but yet you still are not an advocate for their company. Versus, let’s see, what would’ve happened if I picked up the phone, I called the toll-free number, somebody had answered the phone, somebody had expressed empathy for my situation and said, “Let me see what I can do,” and then they ended up with the same result, me with a new bag at my first destination. There we go. How would I feel now? I would be singing their praises from the rafters. I would be saying how wonderful this experience was. 

And instead, same result, I have the bag and I’m not. I’m still feeling like I don’t know if I want to buy another bag from this company. I don’t know if I want to do business with them. I don’t know if I want to recommend them to people. In the store, when I finally got it, and again, they had nothing to do with this other than giving me the bag. They were very nice, very helpful. That had been my experience when I bought my bag in one of their stores. Very nice, very helpful, very knowledgeable as well. 

So how are your customers feeling when things don’t go the way they want? Or when they reach out to you, how they feel about how you’re getting back to them? How do they feel about how you’re communicating with them? How do they feel about the sales process? How do they feel about the process between when they make the sale, right, and when they have their event? And then what about after their event? What is their experience with you? And are they going to be singing it from the rafters? Or are they going to be saying, “You know, yeah, that was good, but I didn’t like this, this and this.” 

I think about when one of my cousins got married and it was a beautiful venue in Malibu, California, and yet she already had a bad taste in her mouth before the event. She was having kosher catering, so she was allowed to bring in her own caterer. She picked this particular venue because they allowed her to bring in her choice of kosher caterer, whereas others wanted you to use their specific one, but she had the one she wanted to use, had had experience with before. And she said she got the feeling that because she wasn’t using one of their recommended caterers, they weren’t giving her the same level of customer service that she would’ve expected, certainly for the price that she paid a five-figure rental fee for this venue. 

So here’s a bride going into her wedding day already feeling a bad taste in her mouth about the venue where she’s about to have her wedding. That’s not what you want your customers to have. My feeling in that is if you allow that, if that’s your policy, that you allow that, you need to treat this person just like every other person because there’s a hundred plus people showing up at this wedding that you are auditioning for. And if they go to the bride and says, “How was the experience?” And she says, “Well, you know what? Let me tell ya,” right? You’ve now just lost the opportunity with those hundred people. 

So just because this person isn’t paying you as much as somebody else might, again, this is following their rules, following their policies, and she felt like she wasn’t treated that way, which makes me think maybe that’s just the way they treat people. Maybe that’s just it. Maybe they just have that attitude, like we’re doing you a favor for you to be having your wedding or event here. So think about the experience that your customer is having. And I always say, if you put yourself in their shoes, would you accept this same level of service or a lack of service that you’re giving at this point? That their perception of that? 

In other words in my case, would you accept if you worked at that company and you turned it around and said, “Now you’re a customer, would you accept that no one picked up when the phone tree picked up that no person ever responded? Would you accept 12 minutes to get a text and being told you need to bring it to a store? Would you accept getting someone tweeting to you, tagging you in that tweet and not getting a response?” I don’t think so. But I wonder how many times you get a bad experience that you think to yourself, if that person was in my shoes, would they accept this treatment right here or would they think that was unacceptable as well? 

So giving them the result that they want doesn’t mean you made them happy. I’ll have an episode coming up in a few weeks with a friend of mine in New Zealand who’s the CEO of the Customer Contact Network New Zealand which is customer call centers, customer service centers and stuff like that. We had a really interesting talk. It’ll be coming out in a few weeks. But just think about the experience. You can check the box and say, “Yes, I’ve given them what they need, but how do they feel about the experience?” That’s what it really comes down to because it’s the intangibles that make customers happy. It’s not just the tangibles. And very often, it’s not the tangibles at all. In my case, tangibly, I got a replacement suitcase. But the intangibles make me feel really bad about the experience. 

So think about this. If you hear me speak about this in public, I will drop the name of the company there, but I’m not going to say it over here. But please think about that every time you’re going to have a customer interaction, if you were the customer, what would you want to happen right now? And not only can you give them what they think they want and need, but can you make them feel good about the interaction? Thanks for listening.

I’m Alan Berg. Thanks for listening. If you have any questions about this or if you’d like to suggest other topics for “The Wedding Business Solutions Podcast” please let me know. My email is [email protected]. Look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Thanks.

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