I was eating in a restaurant a couple weeks ago and noticed that everywhere I looked I saw the message, “You deserve the freshest!” Why do I deserve the freshest? Is there something this poster knows about me that I don’t? A little while later in another store all the signage told me, “You deserve the best!” Again, what have I done to reach such a lofty status? I just walked in the door!
While I get the obvious marketing slant in these messages they got me thinking about how companies treat their customers. A lot of places take a one size fits all approach to serving their customers. While some companies, such as airlines and hotel chains, have taken a bold stance on identifying those with “status” and those without and then differentiating their service offerings for each group, most companies do not. In other words you got the “best”, but you don’t deserve it!
The manifestation of the non-differentiated service offering is twofold. The first problem is that you alienate your best customers. If everyone is special, then nobody is special. I was flying an airline some time ago that was “all first class.” Call me a travel snob, but the fact that my “situation” was not better than other folks on the plane left me feeling a little not-so-special. Service gravitates to the middle and this can result in lower overall levels of service in call centers, longer waiting times in stores and a variety of other negative outcomes.
The second problem with giving everyone the “best” is that if you really try to do this, you drive additional complexity throughout your company. This could be additional distribution or supply chain challenges associated with a much-proliferated product offering or a “bend over backwards” approach to handling customer deliveries. Or, it could drive increasing administrative burden to deviate from the normal process, such as giving certain customers a “special” type of bill that may require some sort of manual intervention This special handling is justified, as discussed above, if the customer truly warrants it, but more often than not they don’t.
Giving special service is important, but give it to the right people. As Gene Simmons from KISS would say, “You want the best; you got the Best!” He didn’t say you deserve the best…