Imagine you went out to dinner.
And the wine was just superb; the bread roll with the exact crunch molecules and texture; and the service so impeccable and knowledgeable that you can’t remember when you had service so good.
Oh and yeah, the fish you ordered for the main was a bit too salty.
What would you remember from this experience?
Most of us would react in exactly the same way. We remember the salty fish. And not surprisingly the business owner or the employees are trying to fix the “salty fish”.
Don’t fix the problem. Fix the experience.
As I sat down to eat a meal at “Two Fat Indians” in Christchurch, my meal was a bit late. And out of the blue, a set of starters was placed in front of me.
I protested, of course, as I hadn’t ordered the starters. I was assured they were complimentary. It had been twenty minutes since I ordered my meal (they were counting on their computer system, not me), and though the meal was just a few minutes away, they offered me a set of starters absolutely free.
They fixed the experience. And the problem.
Most businesses do the wrong thing. When a customer mumbles and grumbles, they try to fix the problem. They see your fish is too salty. They offer to get the chef to cook you another fish with less salt.
Or lets say your hotel room was too noisy. They give you another hotel room on the same floor, or a different floor. Or maybe your website system fails and the client doesn’t get the download you promised. Well that’s easily fixed by sending the client the download, right?
No. No. No. And no.
Yes you need to fix the problem, but first you need to fix the experience. The experience I had at Two Fat Indians stood out, not because I can remember what I ate two years ago. It stood out because they fixed the experience.
By the very same token the experience I had at “Pacifica” (on Napier’s Marine Parade) will stick in my memory like a hornet’s nest. Because Pacifica refused to fix the experience, insisting they’d listened to my feedback and done their best to fix the problem.
Correct. They had done just that. They did everything they could to fix the problem. And they completely missed out on fixing the experience.
Ironically, crappy businesses don’t need to fix the experience
When you run into a shoddy business, you get products or services that are full of holes. You rarely expect any kind of experience from crappy businesses. It’s when you’re dealing with the absolute “Rolex” of businesses like Pacifica or Two Fat Indians that your expectation increases exponentially. And what is expectation but the ‘experience?’
You can’t ever fix the problem
Let me give you an example. Last week a client wrote to us saying she hadn’t received some course materials we’d sent out. To our defence, we’d already sent out the material. We’d done our ‘job.’ And yes, we’d pop another batch of materials in the mail, and yes, that would be that, right?
It’s like a Humpty-Dumpty moment.
You’ve somehow dropped the ball. Whether you’re writing a book, selling a sofa, sending out course materials or serving Monk fish as a main meal, you’re going to get someone upset. And all the ‘kings horses and all the kings men’ can’t fix that Humpty Dumpty moment. You can try to fix the problem the best you can, but hey that’s part of your job.
That’s what the customer paid for. You’re not doing them a favour when you fix the problem. But you are doing them a favour when you fix the experience. And so it’s the experience you must focus on—and not the problem.
To sum up: How do you fix the experience?
Step 1: You recognise the problem; you apologise and you fix the problem.
Step 2: You then fix the experience.
So Step 1 is really easy. Or should be. You recognise the problem. You fix it. And top notch businesses usually do this. They don’t waffle, they don’t shuffle. They instantly spring to action by apologizing (often profusely) and then they seek to fix the problem.
Step 2 is where things fall apart. And the way to fix the experience is to give the customer something that’s not related to the problem at all. It should be something of an add on.
If the course materials get lost in the mail, apologise, and then give the client a free consulting session (at your cost). If your keynote presentation offended some people with an off-colour remark, then apologise and then send them a box of chocolates. If the fish is too salty, try to fix the fish at first, but if the client persists on eating it (which I did), then go ahead and fix the experience. Be warm and gracious and give the client a free coffee, or a warm, chocolate dessert.
This article may read as if it’s about how to handle feedback.
It’s not about feedback.
Most of us bust our guts out to provide an outstanding experience to our clients. But the Humpty Dumpty moment still shows up, no matter what. And our natural response is to get defensive. To justify our actions. To fix the problem. But the client wants more than just for you to fix the problem.
But you know better.
You’ve got to fix the experience. Then fix the “fish”.
Note: It’s easy to forget this lesson. If you would like a mini-poster that you can put on your wall/softboard to remind you about this learning, then go to Fish Cartoon.
Product Offers: Links you should visit
1) “This method works! I can testify it! The Brain Audit makes you independent from marketing consultants, upgrades, expensive marketing campaigns and so on!
“I had a look at Sean's website after a friend told me. I had no faith in it, I was simply thinking: “Here we go again, this will be the n-th marketing method where someone will ask me $$ and then more $$$”. In fact,in the previous years I tried many marketing techniques,with a great loss of money and nearly no result.
I am selling special services and I needed targeted clients without spending a lot of money. I was just wondering: How can I do that?? I bought The Brain Audit. Then I thought -if Sean succeeded in making me buy this e-book, why shouldn't I do the same?
I read it in a nighttime. The next day I applied some minor changes to my monthly newsletter and… guess what? I doubled the people calling me after reading the news!
And from this point, always going up! This method works! I can testify it!
But the main thing for me, is it makes you independent from marketing consultants, upgrades, expensive marketing campaigns and so on!
I can say this marketing system is far better than any other method I tried in a 10-years-work time.”
Dr. Stefan Vettori, Creative Feng Shui, Italy.
Judge for yourself https://www.psychotactics.com/brainaudit
2) 5000bc Community: How can you get reliable answers to your complex marketing problems? (And how on earth do you find answers to these questions at 3:25 in the morning?). Find out how at
3) “How hard can it be to structure a testimonial? Why would I pay $39 to learn how to put a customer quote on my website? “
Five minutes into the course I knew I had made the right decision.
I quickly realized that we had a lot of “sugary” testimonials and not a lot of testimonials that would sell product.
After listening to the course I developed a new system for capturing testimonials and we are in the process of redesigning our website to implement these new endorsements.
Greg DeVore, Blue Mango Learning Systems, USA
5) “I was worried that this would be yet another expense where I didn't end up using what I had bought.”
“You guys are masters of making sure that we consume (what we've bought)! And so, I've learned a ton since I joined! I love The Cave. I honestly haven't made the time to try out anything else or even look into anything other than the general discussion board! The other things I really like: Direct access and insight from Sean, networking with other like-minded small business owners, the positive and encouraging vibe.
If you ask me: Would I recommend 5000bc I'd say: Of course! Because I've learned a lot! One more thing I'd like to add. Thanks for being so dedicated to us. :)”
Fairfax, Virginia, USA
Judge for yourself https://www.psychotactics.com/5000bc
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Article By: Sean D’Souza
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I have 20 years of practical experience as a marketer plus a Master of Science in Marketing and I can honestly say that I’ve never before experienced something as easy to understand and as useful as Sean’s The Brain Audit. As soon as I start to explain just the concept behind The Brain Audit they want to know more. It works just like a flow chart in that each step flows smoothly into the next and the client can quickly understand that. Having just finished teaching Buyer Behaviour, I can say that it’s based on a profound understanding of what makes people buy. In one word, it’s simply . . . wonderful!
Sean really does walk his talk – and apologises graciously as well.
It’s enough to make a subscriber stick around for a very long time – and say “Thanks heaps, Sean. You’re a touchstone”.
Sean D'Souza says
Thanks Rae: And thanks for the wonderful card. I didn’t realise who it was from at first, but I put two and two together.
Bill Cornish says
FYI. The link to the mini-poster drops the ball with a 404.
Thanks for the article. Another very good one.
Dave J. says
Great article about customer experience, I’ll pass along to our management team.
Wanted the fish mini-poster to go along with it, but the link is 404 🙁 But I’m sure Sean the bug-watcher will have that fixed in a jiffy.
Awesome post!! and awesome poster! (it’s on the bkgd of my computer right now)
Sean D'Souza says
Oops. I did forget to link the illustration didn’t I? I do apologise. If you go to http://www.psychotactics.com/fish you’ll find the poster. And just as a way to fix the experience, here are some bonus goodies for you as well.
Two “bugs” that you can use for your own website. 🙂
P.S. The bugs can be picked up at:
The fish can be picked up at:
Linda Fulkerson says
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog & newsletter list, Sean.
I’m glad to read your fish story. I launched a free report yesterday and had changed my permalink at the last minute, so the first subscriber to my list got a 404 code. He sent me a nice message, and I thanked him and apologized (profusely!), and of course fixed the link.
After a few minutes I thought about how helpful it was that he’d notified me, so I sent him another email and told him I’d give him a complimentary copy of my upcoming ebook as soon as it’s finished. He wrote back again and said he was just trying to help out a fellow blogger but would look forward to the ebook. He saved me a LOT of headaches & embarrassment by reporting that bad link so quickly, so I was glad to offer him something in return.
Christian Russell says
What a great, succinct way to address this issue. Every business owner faces this, and it’s so hard not to be defensive. This article offers a powerful way to effectively turn any negative situation into a standout experience that your customer or client will talk about in a positive way for a long time. It’s a great example of how looking at a problem from the right angle can make you so much more effective.
Sean, GREAT description of excellent customer service! Often with a response that transforms the experience, a problem that initially seemed huge can result in a very loyal customer. Sending the link to my staff now… thanks!
Sean D'Souza says
@ Michelle: Glad to hear that. I do hope your staff read it. And there’s always the poster at https://www.psychotactics.com/fish
Sean, I read this article, and I am struck by a flurry of customer service experiences that I have both had and given. This article is the essence of what customer caring is about.
Every time I read your articles, I am delighted by the little gold nuggets I find. Thanks for making me richer!
Start writing something that is very easy to read…
why do you confuse so many things to explain simple things….
Sean D'Souza says
@Dave: It depends what you mean on: “Easy to read”.
Neil Smith says
I’ve a friend that dines at Two Fat Indiians twice a week. They reserve their favourite seat for them, know their order,know their wine, everything.
Its like eating their parents’ own home. Its home away from home. It takes tremendous structure and systems to produce a business like that! That is why I am so glad to be doing the Brain Alchemy Master Class at home at the moment, so I can learn to walk down the road with out customer experiences each year, at annual review time.
Thanks again for more excellent ideas Sean.
Thanks awfully for the poster too!
http://www.LifeRisk.co.nz – A disclosure statement is available, upon request and free of charge.
Sean D'Souza says
That’s really good to hear. I loved it there. 😉
Varun Thakur says
I’m so glad I read this Sean. There have been instances in our business where we’ve gone hammer and tongs at the problem but still not satisfied the customer. We never saw beyond the fish.
Thanks for broadening my view.
This article is such an eye-opener.
I seem to be on the right track as I just offered to fix the experience for a customer a week ago. He had come to us for a web site redesign that literally went dead for many reasons.
He came back ten days ago asking for a refund of the advance he had made. I asked for one final chance to complete it by 31st December and offered to refund an additional sum, over and above what he had paid as advance. He seemed to be totally taken by surprise by that offer and said he is willing to give us time until 31st December.
I wasn’t play acting, though. It was a genuine offer and I fully intended to pay the additional sum if we didn’t complete it. I guess that is important – that the steps you take to fix the experience come across as genuine.
Thanks again for the great insights you provide in your articles.
Christian Russell says
Scmeeven – that is a such a rockin story. Thanks for sharing it! I’d love to hear more about what happened. Did the client end up taking the refund? Did you complete the gig and keep your fee? What a stand up thing to do; it’s true…when you go above and beyond, people notice, and they appreciate it!
Christian, the client didn’t press for the refund. Instead, he accepted our request to wait until 31st December for seeing the completed project. Our team is working on it to deliver by the deadline. And, for the first time in months, the client is actually sounding warm and welcoming when we speak to him.
I just want to add that the additional refund I offered was basically what he had paid for the previous phase of work on the redesign. In essence, I decided to give him back all the money he had ever paid us. That’s probably what made him take notice.
Christian Russell says
Scmeeven – very cool. Thanks for the follow up. Congratulations and have fun with the job!
I always love hearing these success stories. It’s proof these simple principles are powerful and effective. My experience in sales training is that most sales people and business owners miss little opportunities like this, and it can ultimately lead to so much stress and disillusionment, but the solution is SO simple! Thanks again for sharing 🙂
Jody Urquhart says
I like the concept. Write more! i think your onto something but more clarity please…. examples of how to fix the experience would be great
I see it that by offering you an appetizer they exceeded your expectation which enhanced the whole experience.