Culture, Failing Business, & Change

This isn’t a post about the “good old days”.

However, there is a lot to be said about culture, business, and expectations 20 years ago compared to today.

Take for example a recent dinner I had with my family below:

  • We go to a fairly nice restaurant that is popular and has great food on a weekend night.
  • I order a meal I always order and have memorized.
  • Our food comes. Everyone’s order is correct but mine.
  • I send my food back.
  • Everyone in my family gets done eating before I get my corrected meal.
  • I have to box up my meal when it comes and leave with an empty stomach as everyone else is waiting to go.

I didn’t have a terrible time, but I also didn’t have a great time or an experience I was expecting. Not only was I hungry when I left, but everyone had an awkward feeling eating in front of me while I had nothing. Add to the fact that I had to pay full price plus a tip, I ended up paying over $100 for something I could have just had at home.

If I roll back the memories to 20 years ago though, even places like McDonalds would break their neck to offer you free apple pies or extra fries if you had to wait in line more than a few minutes to get your meal.

Don’t get me wrong. The cost of the meal or me expecting something for free is not what this post is about.

Even though the manager came around to ask me if everything was alright, he didn’t make my experience “over the top”. He did make sure my meal was correctly re-made the second time around, but that was it. However, making my meal correctly the second time put me into a position where now everyone feels awkward eating in front of me and ultimately lead to me boxing up my meal without eating it.. so did him just “ensuring” my meal was made correctly the second time around really help me in any way or make my dining experience better or comfortable?  NO.

What would have been the correct thing for him to do?  I don’t know, but doing nothing else sure isn’t the answer.

I wasn’t looking for a free meal, but considering there isn’t really anything else he could have done to make my experience better the manager could have done a few different things:

  • Gave me a ticket/card for a free meal NEXT time I came in with preferred star treatment
  • Gave me a discount on current bill
  • Offered us a free desert

The manager couldn’t have made my food came out faster or prevented my family from eating ahead of me. Giving something up and owning the situation would have been the only thing he could have done and he didn’t do it.

This wasn’t true 20 years ago. If you had a bad experience in a store or restaurant, people owned the situation and made it up to you to help renew your faith that it would be better next time you came to their business.

This isn’t an isolated experience.

Me and my wife routinely run into issues like this at all kinds of business almost daily. It’s shocking the amount of “care less” attitude business owners and employees have with their customers. It’s almost like I the customer should be pleased and honored that I am in YOUR business.

Listen, I could be that rude customer that goes to the manager and makes a huge fit about the issue and demand a refund or free meal. However, I feel that not only is that rude but also embarrassing. I also feel that it is not the customers job to ask and demand the situation be made better when the owner or manager already knows about the situation themselves. It is not the customers job to set expectations in the transaction.

At SERPWoo, we had an outage caused by one of our datacenter partners. We knew of the outage and worked hard to limit the experience to our customers ( free and paid ). When things went to hell in a handbasket, we could have done what everyone else does and simply not informed anyone, ignored help desk tickets and played it off like nothing.

That doesn’t cut it though. Customers vote with their mouth ( not always ) AND their feet ( always ).

When I have a bad experience somewhere and it’s not rectified unless I demand the correct solution, that only leaves a bad taste in my mouth and a negative connection in my mind to your place of business. Next time I am out and about, I will probably tell myself I don’t really need to go to your business and instead start frequenting your competitor.

So when SERPWoo had that horrible experience that caused our customers to not be able to log into their accounts, we gave everyone an upgrade ( for free ) for the troubles.

We didn’t get shit from our datacenter though. We ate the costs, the embarrassment, and owned the situation first hand.


Because keeping our current customers happy and positive is more important than taking the easy road that everyone else is on.

We got tons of emails, tweets, and help desk tickets praising us. People who were upset about the outage and slammed us on social media.. were now our biggest fans and brand evangelists all within a few hours time. No joke.

This post is about people owning the situation and making it right.

Making it right isn’t just about correcting the immediate need of what is wrong. It’s also about setting up the idea that what happened is out of the ordinary and won’t happen again. It’s setting the expectation up in the customers mind that in the future, when you come here, we will make it right for you.

When you don’t do this, you set up in MY mind that yeah.. you will give me a new steak when it’s cooked wrong, but what if I come in tomorrow and the steak is wrong again and I have to leave hungry with the correct steak AGAIN? I don’t go to restaurants to leave hungry and you haven’t put in my mind that you took it serious enough to make sure it WON’T happen again.

Instead, I will just stay home or visit another place to dine.

Put a little extra effort into owning the situation and setting up expectations in the customers mind and see how easy it is to win customers over. Todays poor customer service culture and “it’s all about me/profits” attitude is making it ridiculously easy to dominate whole markets at the moment. This attitude in people, culture, and business is what I think has a lot to do with one of my prior posts “There Is No Need To Be Loyal In A Job” and why business attitude has changed in the last 40 years.

Hi! I'm Jason Brown and I’m a 36 year old digital marketing intrapreneur living in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky. I've been involved with the Internet since 1996 and have personally made millions online with my creative marketing tactics and persistence. I blog about marketing, money, and motivation. Thanks for stopping by!

1 comment

  1. Andy Black   •  

    Poor customer service from our competitors is our opportunity.

    Whenever I make a mistake, I try and turn that into a situation where the customer sees me in an even better light… much like you did after that outage.

    A recent example was me taking my eye off the ball and a client AdWords account overspending for the month. I owned up, and didn’t charge for my services for the next two months. The marketing manager was delighted as she could go to her boss and look good about getting an increased as spend as well as two free months consultancy.

    I regularly take over accounts from agencies just by being honest and transparent.

    Thanks for the post Jason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>