Your Problems Should Never Become Your Customers’ Problems


I was having an interesting conversation with a friend the other day that I thought was worth while sharing. While he and I come from different disciplines, have varying opinions on most topics and often respectfully agree to disagree, we did quickly agree on this: The Customer’s experience should never be compromised by being peppered with whatever challenges, process improvements, or political battles that may be going on internally within a business. In the end, everyone loses. The customer walks away from the experience thinking that the business is disjointed. Internally, energy ends up being diverted to fighting fires and playing politics instead of quickly identifying the problem and agreeing to fix it and move on.

I often refer to this notion of as the “iron curtain”. An example of this is as simple as a stage curtain. Even though there might be total chaos behind the curtain, all you see as a guest in the theatre is the excitement others around you feel for the show that’s about to start. Parents often agree to the “iron curtain” rule – no matter what, their children can’t play one parent for the other and disagreements happen behind closed doors so their children experience a consistent and unified front.

It’s no different with businesses, and I argue the implications are bigger and potentially much longer lasting given the social conversation that can enflame as a result of inviting your customers to peek behind the “iron curtain”.

Under no circumstance am I saying that you should never admit fault. What is the critical secret sauce however is that at the forefront of service experience recovery is that the Brand takes ownership. I look at the Domino’s case study and I deeply respect how the brand launched an aggressive and “in your face” service recovery-based ad campaign in 2010. Instead of pointing fingers at the franchises, the part-time pizza delivery high school students, or distribution centers, they internally agreed as a company that the root cause was something bigger, and then they fixed it.

Like every company, Domino’s slips and still has some less than perfect pizzas delivered still from time to time. Within Domino’s however, those delivering the experience and message take ownership of it as a Brand and recover gracefully:

“I am very sorry for the unacceptable experience you had with our York location. Domino’s Pizza takes great pride in providing the quality products and service you have come to expect and trust every time you place an order with us.

I have forwarded your concern to the franchise owner of this store and requested a follow-up with you as quickly as possible to resolve your concern.”

I had a similar experience with Caribou Coffee, a southeast regional Starbucks competitor. I send a complaint through their website, and within the week received this email:

“I am deeply concerned about the experience you had at our Caribou  location at Hartsfield Jackson Airport.  I can assure you that we strive to please our guests with a quality product and sizzling service.  I offer my sincerest apology, and thank you for your feedback. 

I would like to follow up on my end with the employees that were responsible. I will have my unit manager Jose contact you personally. If you could provide us with the specific details of your visit, I would appreciate it.

I want you to know that your business is very important to us. Please understand that this employee’s rude behavior is not an indictment of all the hard working well mannered folks that we have working on our team every day.”

Same proven formula, different day – the Brand stands up and takes ownership. The Brand identifies this as a corner case and the Brand recovers gracefully.

Fantastic, and music to my ears.

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  1. I like your “iron curtain” idea. Customers should never know whatever internal chaos is going on, but once it spills over (hopefully not that frequently) brands need to know that they can’t bury their heads in the sand and hope it goes away. Never let them see you sweat, but be prepared to handle any fallout should it come you way!


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