Give Your Customers a Back Door

deerI watched three deer come into my backyard this week.  I live on the banks of a large lake.  An inch of snow had made foraging for food more challenging for the deer so they ventured beyond the woods nearby.  They seemed cautious and quickly left without any attempt to find food.  At first I wondered why their short stay on this quiet early morning.  Then, it hit me!  They were positioned between my house and the water with no woods at their back to scurry into should they encounter danger.

Customers are a lot like deer with no woods at their back.  It explains the reason they get angrier than the situation dictates or why they get very defensive when confronted with policies that make little sense to them.  A self-service option can be great until it fails to work, leaving customers trapped.  I watched a trucker at a roadside rest stop get a tire tool out of his rig and destroy a vending machine that kept his money and failed to dispense the beverage he selected.

The snow and ice storm that famously grounded Atlanta yielded some interesting examples of customer exposure with no woods in the background.  Hotels near the airport were slammed due to the complete closure of the Atlanta airport.  But, the crowds in the lobby bar that evening were sour and muted, not jovial as you might expect.  Why?  Stranded hotel guests had been forced to contend with room rates that quadrupled.   And, there were no “free drinks” or “free internet service” or free anything to help subdue their irritation.

Service providers must never box customers into a corner without providing them an outlet for escape should their experience turn anxious.  Always give your customers woods at their back.

Photo Credit: Christina Rutz via Flickr
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