Customer Experience: expectation vs examination

There’s a sign on the door of my local pharmacist that catches my eye every time I go past.  It reads: “In here, customers come first”.

And why wouldn’t it?  The manager or head office has given the store a boost with a simple 5-word promise.  It deliberately raises the expectation of a great customer experience and gives customers a warm, positive feeling of anticipation as they walk in.  It shows, doesn’t it, that employees here are publicly committing to offering something special.

You even start to wonder if, in their own small way, the first agenda item in their daily morning huddle is their customer strategy: “How will we make our customers feel and behave today?”

But hang on.  Why wouldn’t they put customers first?  Is there a successful business (with integrity) anywhere on this planet that didn’t realise it can’t survive without customers.

Customers expect, experience, then examine, sometimes sub-consciously, sometimes with friends over dinner.  So with expectations raised, I once stepped over the threshold into the store.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I ignored the fact that the reason I kept seeing the sign every time I passed is because the door is always firmly shut, even in the heat of Summer.  I should have seen that in itself as a sign of things to come.

The reality of the experience brought the high-flying expectations back down to earth with a huge belly-flop.

The store layout was confusing and wrongly signed (“Ah”, said an assistant, “Sorry, we moved everything around last week”).  The small counter was multi-tasking as a point of purchase, an enquiry desk, an order taker and an appointment maker for the head pharmacist.  Oh, and a gathering point for the staff, who were all averse to making eye contact or smiling at customers, and who were more concerned with swapping notes about the best way to make a sponge cake.  I could go on, but you get the point.

On examination and reflection, maybe I might have been more tolerant if the sign hadn’t been there; if it hadn’t raised my expectations.  I might still then have got frustrated but shrugged it off.  That’s the bit that gets me though – do they really think they are rivalling Apple for the execution of flawless in-store service just because the sign says so?  And surely the staff must conveniently turn a blind eye to the promise when they go to work in the morning.

It’s so very true: the brand is what the brand does, not what the sign on the door says it should. To me that door will always be shut.

Jerry Angrave

Customer Experience Specialist and Consultant

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