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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shattering Expectations

shattered originally uploaded by elle decouvre.
Interesting situation this week at Newark Airport that has me thinking about what our actions communicate to customers...

I make it through Newark Airport security at 4:55am this past Tuesday in anticipation of a 6:15am Continental flight to Saint Louis, MO.

I really don't expect much to be open. However, I walk by Starbucks on Concourse C and notice some activity. The gate is halfway up. I check the store hours and they indicate that store opening is scheduled for 5am. Oh, goody! I'm in luck.

I see others waiting; I find a perch at the shoe shine stand across from Starbucks and wait.

5:05am. The Continental President's Club opens [it's next to Starbucks]. Most of the waiting crowd disappears within. A few of us remain. I'm hopeful.

5:10am. No change. However, the shoe shine man appears. I quickly move off his stool. I notice that his hours indicate a 6am start time [I had assumed I'd be ok for longer]. He invites me graciously to continue using his stool.

5:15am. Starbucks begins to look ready for action: lights are now ablaze and the gate raised. Several of us line up... only to learn that it will be another 20 minutes before they are ready to serve coffee! Ugh.

I decide to find a bathroom. When I return [and I purposely dawdled], the line hasn't moved. Luckily, it quickly starts to engage and the java shots soon begin their allocation. As I exit with my latte in hand, I notice that my shoe shine friend is fully set up and ready for action 30 minutes BEFORE his scheduled start time.

Guess which business I'm more impressed with?

Lesson: if you can't meet basic expectations -- here, serving coffee by the time posted on your storefront -- then re-examine those expectations, particularly if you regularly have problems. If it's a one-time situation, then let people know so they can manage their time and make decisions. In either case, don't forget to make your customers feel special.

Situations outside of our control happen all the time. How we handle them is what makes the difference between a bad taste or an extraordinary response that gets people talking about how wonderful we are!

In this case, it would really have made a difference had the waiting customers been engaged directly. Let us know what is going on. We didn't get a surly attitude, but we did get an impatient one. Imagine if the music had been turned on, if the baristas had laughed and interacted with the waiting customers, or if they had offered some pastry tastes in acknowledgement that folks were waiting... All of that would have lifted the mood and made the waiting crowds become part of the solution.

Beware of not shattering expectations.

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Anonymous said...

Excellent post CB. The airport kiosks are not run by Starbucks and have always been a problem. And as long as the Starbucks logo sits atop the menu board, the Starbucks brand will continue to take the hits for bad customer experiences.

CB Whittemore said...

Lew, it's an amazing disconnect. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Customer expectations are one of the most important parts of the customer experience to manage. I also find they are often the most easily forgotten!

Lewis is right - these kiosks are not run by Starbucks. But customers don't necessarily see that, and they don't care. They just want their coffee. Starbucks should work on getting those kiosks up to the experience level they want to convey or remove their logo.

In the meantime, a quick reminder to at least meet basic expectations (such as coffee being available when the store opens) would be good!

Isn't it amazing how little it takes to stand out among others? Just a small bit of attention to the customer experience works wonders. Thanks for sharing, CB!

CB Whittemore said...

Becky, I agree completely. Had this Starbucks simply had a 6am starting time rather than the 5am, my expectations wouldn't have been shattered [that is assuming they were ready to absolutely start serving at 6am -- or slightly before!]. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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