The Impact of Missed Expectations
This is a story about expectations in the service industry, and the impact of missing those expectations.
My wife and I recently moved into a new house, and as part of the process we ended up making a few tactical capital improvements & purchases. One particular purchase we hemmed and hawed over for a few months, debating between brands and features, etc. In the end, we decided to go for a-not-quite-top-of-the-line model from the top brand in the market.
The thing that drew us to this brand in particular was their reputation; We liked the security of knowing that when you invest in an expensive purchase, the company will stand behind it. That’s how companies build such reputations. When I went through my rookie orientation at Rackspace, it was preached over and over about Nordstrom and the reputation they’ve built that now extends far beyond the boundaries of the retail industry; about how Rackspace aims to have that level of service (and reputation).
Needless to say, less than a month after said purchase, and on the second use, it decided to just not work. I tried everything I could think of, but to no avail. I couldn’t figure out what to do other than call my sales rep, who had handled every part of the process including delivery for me.
Upon description of my issue, he said he knew the likely cause, and I shouldn’t be alarmed; usually it was a minor fix, but they’d have to do it at their service center.
Here’s where things went awry. He said, “Of course we’ll take care of it for you, we’ll stand behind you, but, we’ll need you to pay the pickup and drop-off fee.”
And with one innocuous little statement, my expectations were shattered. I had to explain to the rep that, “no, I won’t be paying for pickup and drop-off,” and that “It’s brand new, and has basically not been used.” He of course apologized, and explained that he could talk to his manager and “pull some strings”.
In the end, they came around and “covered for me this time” after I insisted that I wouldn’t be paying, but this only underscores how little the dealer understands about service.
The reality is that every product or service you can buy has problems from time to time. Cars might come from the factory with a cracked power steering pump (My father’s SUV), clothes may have a seem that wasn’t sewn quite properly, servers might have a dead main-board, but in all of these cases, it’s not how the problem manifested, it’s how we deal with the problems as representatives of the companies.
If the dealer in this case had said, “I’m sorry you had a problem, I’ll have my service guy coordinate a pickup with you.” the conversation would have been over. And I would have sung the praises of their treatment with my family and close friends. But as soon as they communicated their expectation that I pay for the service call, it said to me, “You are not our partner, you are a resource to be exploited.” It was compounded by the treatment where the Sales Representative convinced me that he was “going above and beyond to take care of me” after he was the one that tarnished the experience in the first place.
The moral of the story is this: When you work in the service industry, as soon as a problem manifests, that’s when you earn your paycheck. That’s when reputations are built or ruined. For better, or worse, the way you treat people and meet or fail to meet expectations will last far beyond the incident itself.