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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Great promise. Why are you hiding it?

By now, most Starbucks regulars are aware of their quality guarantee.

They’ll remake any drink that isn’t to the customer’s liking, free of charge.

It's not stated as a guarantee, but it is, and a good one. It would be enough to say that they’ll remake any drink they don’t make correctly, but their promise goes farther to the source of customers’ satisfaction with the experience.

But here’s the problem with this outstanding promise. It's unstated, and almost hidden.

In a local store, this sign was posted in a dimly lit hallway on the way to the restroom. To get even this poor image, I had to move 12 inches from the picture and manually disable the flash on my phone’s (admittedly awful) camera.

Making a guarantee promise so softly detracts from its value to customers. Those that are unaware, have forgotten, or feel too intimidated to engage the promise end up not saying anything, walking out of the store with an ultimately unsatisfying service encounter.

Marketing pros with a finance mind love this scenario, (it’s a form of slippage), the idea being that a large proportion of guarantees on defective experiences will go unclaimed, allowing the company to save money while claiming the value of a guarantee without having to fulfill it.

But customers that walk away disappointed diminish the value of the brand, regardless of whether they enacted a guarantee or not. Companies should be seeking customers with less than stellar experiences in order to recover them, not hiding their guarantees furtively around the corner near the service entrance in hopes that they never say anything.

If you’re going to make a great promise, then make it loudly.

Post the sign in a place immediately noticeable, in a high traffic area where customers are actively engaging in the evaluation of their service experience. Encourage customers to invoke the guarantee, and send them away happy when you get it right.

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