Customers are becoming impossible to please the days. They want the best deals. One-hour home delivery from Amazon. Free Wi-Fi on airplanes. Instant Uber pick-up (even if they are completely inebriated). And only the most rarefied, Instagram-worthy dining experiences.
Because today’s customers just won’t settle for anything less than the very best – or move elsewhere if brands fail to deliver. All it takes is one single negative experience for 51 percent of U.S. consumers to never purchase from a brand again (New Voice Media).
So much for second chances or good old-fashioned, ‘Sorry we messed up.’
It’s no surprise that companies are bending over backwards to give these demanding customers what they want, readjusting their entire focus in the process. In a current Gartner survey, 86 percent of today’s companies said that customer experience is now the main competitive differentiator, compared to only 36 percent in 2012. In other words, delivering outstanding customer experiences is now more important than making outstanding products.
And that’s just plain nuts. Proof of living in an upside-down world.
Plus, if every single customer experience nowadays has to be outstanding, and memorable, and five-star review material – how does genuinely great customer service even stand out? How is it not instantly forgotten, treated as a commodity or birthright? And delivered, grudgingly, not from a willful effort to make customers happy, but simply to avert the wrath of one-star reviews and being ostracized for rating low on the delightfulness meter.
This needs to stop. Because it’s not realistic. Because it’s entirely unsustainable in the long run, not to mention downright mean and passive-aggressive. And because humans, even the ones providing services at the mercy of our digital delight-or-prepare-to-suffer mentality, are not robots.
If every single customer experience nowadays has to be outstanding, and memorable, and five-star review material – how does genuinely great customer service even stand out? How is it not instantly forgotten, treated as a commodity or birthright?
That’s why the world needs more terrible customer service experiences. The kinds that make any power Yelper’s head twist around like in The Exorcist (“I can’t believe I even have to give them one single star?!!”) At least as long as the actual products are decent and folks still get what they paid for…
HEAVY IS THE HAND THAT HOLDS THE LADLE
Case in point: Anyone who watched Seinfeld in the mid-1990s will remember the story of the Soup Nazi, a merciless crusher of soup dreams who rules his hole-in-the-wall shop with a heavy hand.
Take too much time to place an order? NO SOUP FOR YOU!!! Complain about the price of bread? NO SOUP FOR YOU!!! Kiss your girlfriend while waiting in line? Guess what, NO SOUP FOR YOU!!! But the Soup Nazi, played Larry Thomas, gets away with his draconian rule because the soup, it’s just sooo delicious!
Years later, globe-trotting food connoisseur Anthony Bordain (Rest in Power) discovered the real-life equivalent of the Soup Nazi in Vietnam, of all places, in Season 8 of Parts Unknown. Ruling her street-level soup noodle shop with outright disdain for her patronage, the notorious chef / proprietor simultaneously dishes out insults and steaming Bun doc mung (pork noodle soup) to anyone who can handle it.
She will even routinely refuse service to customers who are indecisive about what to order. They better head to the market where there are plenty of ingredients they want, or just go eat at home (how’s that for a Yelp review?).
But her customers put up with the abuse, because the pork knuckle rice noodle soup – as confirmed by the Emmy-winning food show – is not just the only item on the menu, but punches in a class with the best in the whole wide world.
THE PROOF IS IN THE EATING
So, let’s just forget about experience being more important than products. An inferior soup served with free Wi-Fi, a complimentary bard showering customers with songs about their unique greatness and holographic projections of candy-colored unicorns on marshmallow clouds is still just that; inferior soup.
The proof is in the eating, not the sugar-coated packaging.
Today’s spoiled customers need to toughen up and stop hiding behind their one-star reviews. Remember that other human beings dedicate entire lifetimes to mastering the craft behind products and services that are easily taken for granted. And that sometimes, the overall delivery can be less than perfect – because humans only have limited energy and control over their business set-up – and not everything can be served with a fuzzy-happy feeling.
Customers need to learn to show some respect, accept a paper plate or plastic bowl tossed at them without the slightest eye contact or with a healthy side order of expletives. Take some abuse without crying about it on Yelp if the product is good enough. (Needless to say, this extends beyond the restaurant business, because everyone is tired of being reduced to a metric, an X-amount of stars rating.)
Most of all, today’s customers need to appreciate when someone breaks the fourth wall of socially scripted business transactions to connect on a genuine human level, because it’s not really supposed to happen.
Now, are you gonna stand there and stare, or order some f@#king soup?!