Being flexible with customers is sometimes the difference between winning and losing, between success and failure.

This past fall I combined two Texas pastimes.  On the way to a Friday Night Football game I stopped at Smokey Mo’s Bar-B-Q.  I visited this restaurant as a first time customer because a high school fundraiser for the football team sold a coupon for the restaurant.

Friday Night Lights

Now before I go on, think about what a company might hope to accomplish when they sell coupons through a school fund-raising project.  (And refer back to this list after you read the post to see if they accomplished those goals.)  Here are a few:

  • Improve community relations by supporting the school
  • Increase business through new customers
  • Encourage repeat business

Their offer was straightforward – buy a brisket sandwich plus two fountain drinks and receive another brisket sandwich.  However, when the time came to order I counter-offered to buy a more expensive item plus two fountain drinks and still get the free brisket sandwich.  To me this seemed like a win-win deal.  The company would get 30% more revenue, and I would get what I really wanted.

The response was disappointing.  Even though the person I spoke with had the authority to be flexible in order to satisfy a customer, they refused because they said the profit margin on my proposal was less than the deal they offered.

As a customer experience professional I tried to explain:

  • Word-of-mouth advertising and his incentive to provide a positive experience so I would tell others of my good experience and return again myself and
  • Customer lifetime value – that my value to his business would come over time and that this small investment in acquisition (or capitulation on margin) could reap considerable benefit on future Friday nights.

Alas, my explanations fell on deaf ears.  My conclusion (right or wrong) is that Smokey Mo’s doesn’t value my business.  They wasted their opportunity to make a good first impression (didn’t encourage repeat business) and failed to recognize that first impressions (done poorly) may be all a company will ever get.  To me this yields the pivot point – a little flexibility could have created a long-term and loyal customer.  And the inflexibility makes me wonder… if Smokey Mo’s doesn’t value my business, do they deserve it?

How are your “smart” short-term actions damaging your long-term results?

(In) Flexibility Leads to Customer (Dis) Satisfaction
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