Customer Experience: What Do We REALLY Expect?


At the very least, most rational-minded consumers want a positive, pleasant, hassle-free customer experience. And in many areas of our life, we pay very little attention to that service.

It’s often something we expect, rather than something we hope for.

So imagine you pull into the local gas station, go inside, grab a bag of chips and put $20 on Pump 7.

The clerk smiles, taps some keys and wishes you a nice day.

It’s a perfectly acceptable experience – fast, friendly, and they had those chips you really like…the ones that no one else seems to carry.

But what if Pump 7 didn’t work?

Simple: you’d probably go back inside and speak with the clerk, pull your car up to Pump 9, and the clerk would move the money over.

Maybe the clerk would apologize, offer a smile, and start writing an “Out of Order” sign to tape to the pump.

A small hassle, easily resolved.

The experience was still generally positive, albeit with a small hiccup.

Customer Service Horror Show: What if? 

Now imagine instead if the clerk – when informed of the issue –said: “Sorry, but you indicated your contract was with Pump 7. You may have noticed the ‘All Sales are Final” sign? You’ll have to either forfeit your payment or wait until service is restored to Pump 7. It’s company policy – there’s nothing else I can do.

Wow – talk about a customer experience! That’s the kind of experience that makes you want to set up a Twitter account and buy a billboard across the street to share your indignation and outrage with the world.

Transparent Transactions

Whether it’s shopping online, down the street or via telephone, our transactions have become virtually transparent. We all have a pretty good grasp of how the transaction itself will proceed, and it generally involves less and less interaction with Company personnel. The interactions we will have are expected to be friendly, engaging and informative. Their infrequency means those interactions take on greater importance.

In some cases, no interaction at all is the hallmark of an excellent customer experience. After all, who wants to talk to Amazon customer service? I’m sure they are wonderful people, and I’ve read good things. But let’s face it: the ideal Amazon transaction involves ordering, getting the confirmation email, and receiving the magic brown box sealed with a strip of Amazon-branded tape. That’s it – no people involved…unless something goes wrong.

The Importance of Managing the Negative Experience

That holds true for a wide range of things in our lives. We know what we expect to happen at the gas station (“$20 on 7? Sure. Need a receipt?”). Or when we go into a Starbucks or a drive-thru car wash. It’s when things deviate from our expectations – or when things go wrong – that the customer experience really begins to matter.  Companies who are successful at converting negative experiences into positive ones have a stronger position in the battle for brand loyalty & customer retention.

Have you ever managed a negative customer interaction to deliver a positive customer experience?