Preparing for ‘Lightning’ in Your Customer Experience

It was a sudden storm, one that blew up with little warning. I was in the hardware store near my home. Strong wind and driving rain falling at greater than a 45-degree angle caused me to worry about getting out to my car in the parking lot without becoming soaked. Then, a bolt of lightning hit nearby. The thunder that instantly followed sounded like a bomb in a warzone. The entire store went dark; everything stood still and silent.


But then emergency lights came on. Seconds later the store generator came on and the setting was back to normal. Store employees seem unphased by the “lightning” occurrence. The store owner went to stockroom at the back of the store and brought back a case of bottled water and placed it on the check-out counter. As customers checked out, they were given a free bottle of water.


When it came my turn to check out, I told the cashier she really didn’t need to give me a bottled water “on the house;” the power outage was an act of nature and outside store control. With calm and confidence, she said, “That is true. But, it happened while you were in our store. When you remember our store, we would rather you remember a free water and not remember getting the dickens shocked out of you!”


Their calm I witnessed was disciplined and organized. There was no confusion, uncertainty, or handwringing about what to do. It was if all the store employees had had a “scared customer” drill, not just a fire drill. It was as if all manner of “what if’s” had been discussed with employees with solutions on how to effectively handle each one.


Customers enjoy consistency and predictability, especially around the core features of the customer experience. They abhor anxiety as much as they detest bureaucracy. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Look for ways to head off customer angst and worry by always preparing for “lightning.”


Image credit: Photo by Jay Dantinne on Unsplash.

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Dr. Chip R. Bell is a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and innovative service. Global Gurus ranked him in 2018 the #2 keynote speaker in the world on customer service; #1 in North America. He also is the author of numerous national and international best-selling books including Take Their Breath Away, Managing Knock Your Socks off Service, Magnetic Service, The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service and Customers as Partners. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages.

His newest customer service book is the award-winning, best-selling book Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.

Dr. Bell has appeared live on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, CNN, Fox Business, ABC, CBS, NPR Marketplace and his work has been featured in Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, and Fast Company.


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