How to Mess Up a Perfectly Good Customer Experience


As a marketer, you should be overly concerned about how your customers experience your brand, products and customer service. I evangelize how in the internet age it’s very easy for a company to wind up getting skewered via social media.

But all isn’t the same out there. I come across businesses daily who don’t have their proverbial act together. All could really learn some lessons on how customers must be king or else.

I love to go to the movies. The local theater I go to recently underwent a complete makeover, including new, wider reclining chairs; a bar with real food and alcoholic beverages; and more. This theater already had a really great loyalty program in place: it seemed for every couple of movies I went to, I wound up with a free ticket. Very cool!

Even more cool (guilty pleasure alert), it actually used real butter on its popcorn. Oh, and free refills. And it was never too crowded like the mega-giga-multiplex in town where you need a shuttle bus a la Disney to get from the parking lot to the theater.

Enter Frank Theatres a few short months ago and the mega-giga-multiplex doesn’t look so bad. It upped the price of a movie ticket by a few bucks, made it harder than winning the lottery to get a free ticket via its points-based loyalty program and in general tortured me as a customer by making the $6 popcorn nonrefillable. Now you have to buy the $7.50 size (maybe you city folks pay that for 30 cents of corn, oil and seasonings, but down south here that’s a big jump) in order to get refills. I’m pretty sure the $6 bag and the $7.50 bucket are about the same size, so why not just charge me $1.50 for a refill and stop with the subterfuge already.

I won’t even tell you about how customers are supposed to understand how to wait in one central line for the candy counter until the next person is called without any velvet ropes or a queue. Ridiculous! Is it one line or three lines? This is for sure going to turn into a fistfight one day soon because people try to form three lines only to be told they’re cutting the line.

The kicker: I took my family to the movies last weekend knowing I’d drop close to $100 for the latest 3-D flick (an additional $3 just to use the theater’s 3-D glasses), but I couldn’t even use a $100 bill. The girl at the ticket booth told me flatly, “We don’t take that, it’s our policy.”

So by now the moral of the story should be obvious — wait for the movie to come out on cable. Wait, that’s not it.

The moral is your customers have expectations. If you meet or beat those expectations, you’ll do well in business. If you don’t, there will likely be consequences — i.e., lost sales. Your customers are creatures of habit. They like their little creature comforts. If you take them away, they tend to get upset and take their business elsewhere.

So a note to Frank Theatres: This is the internet age. Get it together or deal with some very vocal customers who like what they like. If it’s going to take over another theater, keep the customs of that theater or risk losing business (or at least go with gradual change). It’s OK to add to a better user experience. Be careful that progress isn’t taking one step forward and two steps back.

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