The ‘That’s OK’ Economy


I recently wrote about how companies can provide small, unexpected surprises, based on their normal business practices, to create ‘WOW!’ moments for their clients. Of course, the opposite is true at the other end of the client’s experience spectrum, when you ignore the impact of your daily interactions you can plunge your customers into head-shaking reactions.




I was at a bakery to buy a loaf of sourdough bread (really good sourdough bread). I waited in a long line for about 15 minutes, an eternity in the right-now-reality of today. Part of the reason, of the three registers, only one was being manned despite the obvious backup of customers (the line was 12 deep). But, the bread was worth it. Even though I had to listen to the customers around me complain about the ridiculous wait, it was worth it. As my turn approached I asked for a loaf of sourdough, thickly sliced. She gave me a legitimate blank stare. I waited and then politely repeated my order. She turned to the racks of bread loaves and asked, “Which one is sourdough?”

Uh Oh! The one with the little beautifully calligraphic sign that said, you guessed it, sourdough. “Can I get it THICKLY sliced?” “Sure.” As she put the properly identified loaf into one of two slicers, I recognized that she put it in the thin slice machine. I said, “No, no, the thick slice machine.” She corrected me, “This IS the thick slice machine.” Though I don’t work for this purveyor of carbohydrates, I could tell by the width of the cutting template which machine was which, but too late to correct. The deed was done and I had a thinly sliced loaf of bread. Oh, by the way, it was the last loaf of sourdough. She apologized and I said, “That’s alright,” and went on my way.




At the movies, I ordered a medium Diet Coke. That will be $4.11. I gave her a fiver and she counted out the change. She thanked me and said’ “I hope you enjoy the movie.” I stood there and she asked, “Would you like something else?” “No, but I would like my Diet Coke.” What? I gave you the money and you didn’t give me my Diet Coke, thus the transaction is incomplete. She looked at me blankly. We all, unfortunately, are getting used to that look. I politely waited for a reaction and receiving none, I repeated the order of events until she finally perceived that she had yet to complete the transaction. She passed over the drink and as I had a sip on the way to the theater discovered it was a regular coke. “That’s alright,” I figured.




What’s the Problem

We immediately retreat from our expectations into the realm of ‘that’s alright.’ Neither of these incidents was world-changing, but both were evidence of a lack of face to face attention. This spells a lack of training and it is the core reason for our commonplace low expectations. The basics are a big deal and the basics should be the basics. If it is client facing, it’s NOT basic, it’s fundamentally critical to your desired outcome. Front facing is the empirical identity of your brand.

Check out how you’re greeted by the front facing folks at Chick-Fil-A or the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award winning teams at Rudy’s BBQ (when you’re in Texas). They make you feel like family and they know their stuff because they are well trained.

We expect things to go wrong, for the service to breakdown, for the ‘that’s alright’ experience.

So, if you are looking for WOW moments, look no farther than how your phone is answered, how your receptionist greets someone entering your office, how well those that are your front line warriors represent YOU.  You know what’s important and you can stop the dipped shoulders of a customer saying, “THAT”S ALRIGHT!”

Control Your Client Experience!

When you talk about an extraordinary client experience, you probably wouldn’t think of Texas BBQ. But, right there, in the Lone Star states number one form of cuisine you will find two time winner of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for customer service, Rudy’s! The idea that a BBQ joint could join winners such as The Ritz Carlton and Xerox seems absurd, but an almost manic commitment to the idea that friendly people and a fantastic product can create a dynamic and unique client experience has positioned Rudy’s as a must visit eatery.


Ken Schiller and Brian Nolen opened the first Rudy’s in 1994 and went from a small gas station BBQ place to having over 400 employees and from $2 million to over $60 million in annual sales. As they grew they knew the incredible commitment it would take to maintain that small friendly atmosphere from the original restaurant. They follow a simple and powerful formula. 

How did a BBQ joint join the likes of the Ritz Carlton?

  • Keep Employees Happy – Happy employees translates to happy customers.
  • Train to a Desired Outcome – Yeah, it costs money to continually train, but the outcome is worth it EVERY TIME. EVERYONE gets 40 hours of training around their client experience and new managers receive 10 weeks of specific education around their responsibilities. 
  • You Are Accountable For Our Product and Our Service – PERIOD. Teams are graded weekly and fast feedback leads to effective coaching. 

The idea of a commitment to a great client experience is not reserved for the big corporate players, but is instead the playground of quality for EVERY business on the planet. 

It’s time to take control of YOUR client experience and create something that will separate and differentiate you from your competition. 

There are thousands of BBQ places in Texas, but there is only ONE Rudy’s.