Aim For Memorable, Not Satisfied

By Heather Baldwin

If you want to establish long-lasting customer relationships, don’t aim for satisfaction – aim for memorable. Satisfaction is blah. It’s white bread in a multigrain world. Satisfaction suggests meeting minimum customer expectations, and that’s not going to bring clients back again and again, says Jeffrey Gitomer, author of Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless (Bard Press, 1998). Here’s a classic example of the satisfaction-versus-memorable scenario.

Some years ago, Gitomer checked into a hotel for the night. Because it was a limited service hotel, he dragged his own bags to the front desk on a luggage cart. Seeing the bags, the clerk asked: Can I help you with those bags? Gitomer politely declined and that was the end of the exchange. It was too bad, Gitomer says, because while he had been satisfied – the clerk had inquired whether he needed help – the clerk had missed an opportunity to breed loyalty by creating a memorable event. “If the clerk had jumped from behind the desk and said: Mr. Gitomer, let me show you to your room personally. And then, tongue in cheek, added: These halls are fraught with danger. Let me drag your bags down the hall for you and ward off the lions or tigers that gobble up guests who take their own bags down the hall,” says Gitomer. “I would have been howling with laughter and told everyone of the experience.” Instead, he dragged his own luggage satisfactorily down the hall, lamenting that the experience could have been more memorable.

Shortly after arriving at his room he called downstairs to request that an iron and full-size ironing board be sent up. Ten minutes later there was a knock on his door and a hotel worker handed him an iron and “one of those mini ironing boards for Barbie doll clothing,” says Gitomer. The worker apologized that there were no full-size ironing boards at the hotel.

There he was, satisfied again. Gitomer had his iron. He had an ironing board. But he hated small ironing boards, so he drove four miles down the road to Wal-Mart and spent $12.88 for a big-people’s ironing board that he later donated to the hotel. “For $13 they could have been heroes instead of goats,” he says. “They could have said: If you can wait 15 minutes, I can make one appear. That’s what I wanted to hear.”

So what’s holding companies back from creating memorable moments instead of satisfactory ones? Companies are training their employees on policies and rules instead of principles, says Gitomer. They are teaching their people why they can’t do something instead of thinking yes and figuring out how to deliver – even if it means leaving for a few minutes and spending a few bucks.