Pebbles can be very irritating. Recall when a small one found its way in to your shoe.
Pebbles can also tip the customer service scale. The things we like are stones on the positive side of the scale; the things we don’t like weigh on the negative side. As long as the scale stays tipped toward the positive, we’re happy.
Today I did a call ahead appointment with a service provider that (theoretically) meant I wouldn’t have to wait when I arrived. In the five minute drive to the establishment, the service provider decided to squeeze in another customer and make me wait thus defeating the purpose of the system.
That was a small irritating pebble. By itself it wasn’t enough to make me go elsewhere, but added to a few other negative stones, it was just enough to tip the scale the wrong way.
Service pluses and minuses are cumulative. Mistakes are irritating pebbles; service failures are annoying stones. It should be obvious: we want to keep adding positive pebbles and removing negative ones to keep the scale tipping in favor of good value and lasting relationships.
Interestingly I’ve not heard from the service provider. Perhaps the irritating stone went unnoticed. That’s unfortunate because it is rarely too late to remove the pebble and regain the right customer service scale balance.
Tend to your scales today, and pay attention to those annoying little stones that tilt customers away.
“Mistakes are irritating pebbles; service failures are annoying stones.” The Tipping Point (irritation vis-à-vis annoyance ) has been so beautifully explained. Thank you.
And to me, “The Fred Factor” and “The Encore Effect” are the handbooks for Customer Service and that’s why I love to read and reread them. I can never thank you enough for giving us these gems.
Great insights (as always), Mark. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. The consequence for the provider will be unfortunate…for them.
When I was still at Disney, my team established what I call “Service Netting” to “catch” problems before they affected the guest. When that fails (and, in this imperfect world, mistakes will eventually happen), Service Recovery comes into play.
One interesting thing I’ve found with Disney and other world-class companies is that they approach it differently than average companies. The two primary issues RE: Service Recovery is 1. the degree of impact on the customer (high/low), and 2. the degree of responsibility of the company (high/low). When both are low, just apologize. When impact is low, but the company is responsible, fix it as quickly as possible and “plus it up” with some token of appreciation. When the impact is high and the responsibility of the company is high, then you (unfortunately) need to roll out the red carpet. This is rare if a company is focused on continuous improvement and attends to issues before they get big.
The situation where 99.9% of companies falter is when the impact to their customer is high, but the responsibility of the company is low. Most simply apologize. This is a BIG mistake. World-class companies choose to take this opportunity – when the customer needs them most – to be a service hero. Nearly ALL “legendary” stories (Nordstrom-tire, etc.) are a result of a company coming to the rescue when they didn’t have to. In addition to consistent quality service, this is what generates word-of-mouth and loyalty.
I wish more leaders would expect/support this approach. Everyone wins as a result.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Mark!
This is a great metaphor. I also use the game of four-square as another metaphor. When a business does something that lands out of bounds with me, that business then drops out of their position and the store down the street moves up into the “King” square.
One principle in relationships is that it takes 10 positives to cancel out 1 negative. Do you think that also applies to business?
Just thought you’d like to know that ATT is now on my “Rock Star” list for customer service…. at least the wireless folks are. Had issues with email changes on my Blackberry, and they called me at the appt. times…. and worked with me to get the issue fixed.
They also worked with me on my wireless aircard when it had issues with the updates created by Windows 7. Again, they followed up with calls to me! Outstanding on both accounts.
So kudos to ATTwireless. They rock!
It is always interesting reading your perspective, Mark.
Was your experience a mistake or a service failure? I honestly don’t know. What really happened was, for some reason, another customer took precedence over your scheduled needs. The real issue was the lack of acknowledgment for why your expectations were not met.
A physical therapist’s day doesn’t always go as the daily schedule indicates. In my profession, unforeseen things happen. The unforeseen events can be as minor as a slight change in someone’s symptoms to something extreme requiring emergency services activated to someone being in a high level of pain needing to be seen ASAP. The unforeseen circumstances will alter my ability to be available as scheduled anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes later than the anticipated schedule. It is struggle to do what is right because often times what is right has a bit of a ripple effect onto others not even involved in the situation. The best I can do is greet the person who will need to wait and offer a vague explanation for the unexpected wait. The ball is put into the waiting patient’s court to decide whether to stay or reschedule. (I have no idea what else is going on in his or her day…)
Good point, Snippets. In an environment like your’s, scheduling is much more challenging and requires flexibility on the patient’s part as well as the therapist’s.
In my case the service provider (I’m talking about a haircut) decided to slip another customer in and make a few extra bucks by making me wait. I had called to make sure she was available (she was) and was there within five minutes. I’d been told, “She’ll be ready for you when you arrive.” When I arrived I was told, “We don’t know why she took the other customer. We told her you were on your way.” No system is perfect, but an espoused system that isn’t followed will never work right. While irritating, even that goofiness by itself might not have caused me to bail, but combined with some other dissatisfaction, the scale tipped the wrong way.