The Macaron Nazi.

soupCraft a perfect image for your business complete with logo, tagline and mostly stellar online reviews. That’s great. You WANT all those things. But many businesses have a hard time getting their heads wrapped around the idea their identity is public property and that even though it’s your blood, sweat, tears and money that built the business, you have an unpaid marketing department.

They’re called customers and they notice every detail. And to make it worse, every one of them is an expert. The sooner you get comfortable that their “expertise” is perfectly valid and will be shared relentlessly, the better.

There is a French bakery in a neighboring town that I pass by quite often. Their macarons are sublime and I would put anything they do that’s vaguely pastry up against anyone. The couple that owns the place are as nice as can be…until something happens that they don’t like.

It can be a dog tied to a lamp post in front of the shop, a noisy group, a guy moving a chair from one table to another, someone who asks a lot of questions and, mostly, Yelp reviews that are anything less than 5 stars. Reading their Yelp replies is as horrifying as anything Stephen King has written. Anyone who offers the slightest criticism gets a faceful of “what culinary school did you go to?” In this day and age, if you have a sizable number of Yelp reviews (and they do), there is no need to panic over one or two mediocre reviews. But if you insist on ripping into customers on-line, you, yes YOU are the one tearing down your business. New potential customers don’t want to run the risk of running into Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. They’ll find somewhere else to buy a tart as I reluctantly did. I just could not reward their aggressive online persona with my money.

It’s natural to want to defend your business or your employees but keep a level head. Online reviews are generally opinions and opinions are highly subjective. Generating what amounts to a court transcript of a back-and-forth with a disgruntled customer can never be good for you. Your regular customers will most likely side with you and the other 99.9% of the population that makes up people you WANT to be your customers will not want to get involved. Maybe your regular customers will mention that they read the bad review and give you an “attaboy” for your crusty (see what I did there?) response but that doesn’t make the cash register ring. Cold solace I’d say.

Writing a defensive “it’s easy to hide behind the internet” response to a bad review should be given the same consideration as drunk texting an ex. Think about it. Think about it again…and then don’t do it.

So what SHOULD you do? Remember your three constituencies in this case:

  1. The reviewer.
  2. Happy customers who will most likely continue to visit in spite of the review.
  3. People reading the review who are not customers yet

Think of the reviewer. But think HARDER about #3. It’s perfectly acceptable to offer your email address and ask for more details on their visit. Let them know that their business in important to you. Heck, it’s perfectly fine to get more to the point and say that YOUR business is important to you and you want to make it better.You should want to understand what could have made their experience everything they’d hoped it would be.

Get the information if it’s offered and see if there is anything to learn from. If it’s helpful, see what you can change or retrain staff where appropriate. If the feedback is a corner case or not helpful, disregard it and don’t feel you have to explain why it’s not helpful to the reviewer.

Remember, it’s more important to grow your business than be right on the internet.


Customer Experience When They’re Walking Away.

apple store What makes you “like” a business? What makes you love one. What makes you feel you’re a valued and enthusiastic part of an entire ecosystem that forms that enterprise?

When building a customer experience, it’s easy to cherry pick. It’s easy to gravitate toward the part of the experience that is most obvious or the one that’s most personally interesting to you.

When putting together a retail experience such as a brick-and-mortar store, a restaurant or a winery tasting room, everyone puts a LOT of thought and effort into the initial impression. The visceral feeling of the “unveil” is hard to resist. Who doesn’t love a good “voilà moment?”

I’m not agitating for undervaluing that part that part of the experience but a flush of excitement that fades is common. Ask yourself this: Would you prefer a customer loving you most on the way IN or loving you most on the way OUT of your business?

One of my favorite customer experiences to be had is at the Apple Store. Every second of the customer experience has been tailored to put you in the proper frame of mind. The precision look of the stores with their reliance on glass and modern design set your expectations as you approach. The eager staff that greets you as you walk into the often crowded stores has the right balance of clean eager nerdiness to make you feel like it’s a place of endless possibilities that will be quickly curated to your particular need.

If all customers walking in were there to primarily do one thing, the Apple Store would not be so amazing. But a person looking at a $3000 MacBook Pro, one looking for a charger cable and one looking for repair services all have needs for a vastly different experience. Triaging that quickly is key so that the superior experience for the unique use case starts immediately.

More often than not, customers walk out of an Apple store not feeling gouged by the incredibly high profit margins but with a feeling that “you get what you pay for.” They often walk out with a – some would say smug – feeling that they’re part of something special. Statistically, Apple customers are among the most loyal in tech and the customer experience building to THAT feeling is a huge part of it.

How do you want your customers to feel when they walk out of your business? Build your customer experience from back to front. How they felt walking in is important in teeing things up but how they feel leaving is who you are to them.

Customer Experience is Everything.


Reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors seemingly has it all. He has money, fame, professional success and a wonderful wife and family. It all adds up to a likeability factor that’s off the charts. He shreds the NBA and then goes home to record a Dubsmash video of a song from “Frozen” with his wife to post on social media.

He’s at the pinnacle of his profession. Under Armor gave him equity in their company to get him to design a shoe for them. His jersey is the top seller. In the off-season, he goes to Tanzania to hang mosquito nets in areas ravaged by malaria. He doesn’t send money like most would. He goes there.

No wonder people really like him.

Remember Tiger Woods? Remember when he was at the top? He dominated the links, his face was everywhere and every blue chip company wanted to be associated with him. He had it all. But even before his fall from grace, there was something about him that rubbed many in the public the wrong way. It could have been his robotic interviews and the cold vibe he threw off.

His popularity was more a form of respect for his utter domination on the golf course rather than a genuine embracing of the man himself. When his game began to deteriorate, the mystique was gone. Even before his shameful indiscretions were made public, he was fading. He offered one thing and that one thing evaporated.

As a company, you want your Customer Experience to be more Steph and less Tiger.

Tiger’s “customers” (sports fans, consumers, etc.) showed that their Tiger Woods “experience” was not something that really resonated on any deeper level. Their grudging respect for his one attribute (excellence on the golf course) was easily unraveled. Admittedly, he made it pretty easy for them to unravel.

When your customer experience is one dimensionally focused on product excellence, you are a misstep or two from a perilous fall. When your product quality, corporate culture, efficient processes and excellent people combine to form your identity in the marketplace, you may find your customers will be on your side if one of those important attributes falters.

Customer experience is bigger than the value your product provides.

Customer experience is everything.