What if you walked into a great looking restaurant, were treated perfectly, were happily surprised by lower-than-expected prices, felt all warm and fuzzy, and when the food arrived it was horrible? Even though the customer service experience was magnificent, you wouldn’t go back. The restaurant did a great job with everything else, but at the end of the day you were there for the food, right?

That happened to me this weekend. My partner and I tried out a diner that she’d heard great things about, and exactly what I described is what happened. Everything there was great except the food.

If you’re wondering where this registers for me, consider that in Manhattan there’s probably a diner every two blocks, and while there might be some part of me that wants to find the perfect place I’ve come to expect nothing more than a pretty consistent experience; after all, they’re all just “the corner diner”.

But when things look better-than-great, etc., etc., etc., and then the actual product fails miserably . . . well, all the outstanding customer service in the world can’t make up for that. Your expectations have been set and then destroyed. Unlike my terrible experience with Nissan of Manhattan’s Customer Service, where all I was looking for was customer service that befit my perceived status, or Panera Bread’s troubles with Wi-Fi, where the trouble rather than the quality chased me away, here THE FOOD WAS BAD.

Or to put it in simpler terms, the diner over-promised (by doing everything else well) and then under-delivered when the food was bad.

Not OK.

The right way to handle this, of course, is to keep your finger on the virtual pulse of every part of your business. Constant Contact, for example, upon hearing that I’d enshrined them on The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame, made a point of reaching out to see what they could have done better.

DO you know what you sell? It’s always customer service, but if you want your business to grow you need to understand what else you sell. Or at least what your customer thinks you sell.

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