Fred is a nice bloke. He runs a small business and prides himself that, each time it is an employee’s birthday, it is cakes all around, with something extra for the birthday boy or girl. All the staff love it and look forward to it every time a birthday comes around.
One day, Fred forgot Alice’s birthday.
Not only was Alice deeply disappointed and upset—why, of all the staff, had she been singled out to be insulted in front of her colleagues?—all the staff had a great old time being disappointed and upset on Alice’s behalf.
The damage done by that fatal lapse of memory wiped out, at a stroke, all the goodwill that had been generated over the past five years, and Fred now faced climbing back to a neutral relationship with the staff before he could build on it further.
People who talk about customer service often advocate ‘going the extra mile’. In addition to providing the services the supplier is contractually obliged to provide, they are recommended to deliver a bit extra for free in the hope that their client will like them more and be inclined to continue to use them.
And that is almost invariably exactly what happens. The client will like them more and will be inclined to continue to use them.
So the client now places another order with the supplier.
Except that, this time—human nature being what it is—the supplier has created an expectation in their client’s mind that the supplier will ‘go the extra mile’ again.
If the supplier once more goes the extra mile, the client may well continue to like them and be likely to place a further order but, this time, the ‘extra’ wasn’t a delightful surprise, a true extra: the client was expecting it, and woe betide the supplier if he didn’t deliver the extra the second time.
As further orders are placed, the pleasure the client gets that the supplier delivers the extra rapidly disappears. It simply becomes what is expected; it might as well be part of the contract. And, usually, this happens on the second order.
Now the supplier has to deliver this extra every time because failing to do so will create disappointment and disenchantment which, because it will be the most recent experience for the client, becomes the dominant memory for them of the supplier’s service.
So, at best, the supplier has to be extra vigilant that they never slip up in delivering this extra.
At worst, the supplier gets himself into a spiral of ever increasing extras intended each time to ‘go the extra mile’—a sure recipe for eroding profits.
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2014 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 9 september 2014 . image: Free images