We’ve all heard the adage of “receive good service and you’ll tell one person, but receive bad service and you’ll tell ten,” but do companies heed this advice?  Not all.  If you’ve ever visited yelp.com, you’ll see loads of exactly what customers think about businesses.  Granted, everyone and every business can have a bad day, but if there are repeated negative comments about a product or service, it may be wise to fix the problem lest you risk losing your customers to another business.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that customers don’t want to be bogged down by excess information and aren’t concerned with what will make things run more smoothly for your company; they are interested in a fast, easy transaction, satisfying product/service and minimal disruption to their daily life.  If you want happy customers and repeat business, you must cater to their needs.  The easier and more positive you make their experience, the better results you will yield.

Take for example two grocery store chains.  One is a super mega store with additional household products and generally lower prices, the other is a regular grocery store with a savings club card.

Mega store is appealing because you can find just about whatever you’re looking for there and the prices really can’t be beat.  Sure, the store isn’t as clean and the employees don’t necessarily help you very efficiently, but you can usually find your way around the store easily and the savings mean you can buy more for less.

Then consider regular store.  The store is clean, well-stocked, the employees are friendly and helpful and there are often great deals on products you need.  The prices are a bit higher, but you get that extra bit of service and the confidence of a clean store which increases the value of your experience.

Now flash forward to the end of your shopping trip: you’ve loaded everything you need into your cart, spent a good hour at the store, are hungry, maybe you spent all day at work and you’ve got a ton of things to do at home.  In other words, it’s time to get out and move on with your busy day.

Now mega store has 30 check stands, which looks promising, but only 3 of them are open and each has at least 10 people waiting.  If each transaction takes 3 minutes, that means you’ll be waiting in line for 30 minutes!  What about your frozen and refrigerated foods?  They’ve already been in your cart for at least 15 minutes and will be in your car on the ride home for another 15 minutes (because most mega stores aren’t right in your neighborhood) so your cold food will have been out for at least an hour by the time you get it home.  Maybe it’s not a big deal, but knowing that, if your milk tastes a little funny in the next day or two, it will surely cross your mind that perhaps your food could have gotten out of the “safe” temperature range while waiting at the grocery store.  You spite the fact that you spent so much time at this store but tell yourself it was worth it because you saved some money.

Regular store has about a dozen check stands and at least half are attended.  The lines have maybe two or three people in each and occasionally, you are the lucky one who gets called to go to a newly opened register to expedite your checkout process.  You spend maybe 5 minutes in the checkout and another 5 minutes driving home because regular grocery stores are usually much closer to neighborhoods.  Your cold food has been out of the cold for approximately 25 minutes and you arrive home 35 minutes faster than you would have, had you gone to mega store, plus you don’t feel rushed due to being forced to wait to pay for your purchase.  You realize you may have spent a bit more money than you would have at mega store, but you saved time and frustration so you don’t mind spending a little more.

These two scenarios are very real customer experiences existing today.  One of a customer’s final impressions of a shopping experience is checking out, when they are paying a company so it can stay in business.  How do you want to than your customer for keeping you in business?  By providing sub-par customer service then making them wait in line half an hour so they can pay you for it?

Eventually, this kind of treatment starts to grate on customers and they decide it’s not worth the savings to put up with the hassle involved.  This is when the regular stores can step in and win over these frustrated customers with exceptional customer service and quick check out.

But it’s not limited to just grocery stores or even retail stores for that matter; this situation goes for any business with customers.  While it can be tempting to undercut the competition in price, it’s important to focus on making the customer experience as positive as possible, even if it costs a little more.

Another example is an auto insurance company that takes an hour-long phone call during business hours and multiple call transfers to handle a policy change that another company lets its customers manage online at any time of day in minutes.  Or how about a cable service provider who arrives at the end of a 4 hour window, causing you to miss a day of work versus another company that can schedule a 2 hour window on a weekend?

It is the ease of transaction, the satisfying product and/or service and the minimal disruption of daily life that create positive customer experiences and can land you life-long customers.

What examples of positive or negative customer experiences have you encountered?