Messaging Misstep #3

This one is not about a commercial or print ad. It is, however, about messaging so read on.

A strange thing happened today that I'd like to share and would love feedback on. I was meeting someone at Starbucks. I got there first, walked in, and immediately noticed something strange - few tables but lots of chairs. There were at most 3 tables in the whole place. However, there were chairs where tables used to be.

So, I got my coffee and went outside to wait, thinking we should have gone to Panera. When we connected we went back inside. Now there were 2 more tables!! What in the world was going on?

My colleague asked and was told the following: 'our new table came in today and we're putting them together in the back. As soon as we get another one built we'll bring it out.' Really? Apparently their expectation was that we'd just sit in chairs without a table to put our coffee and papers on. Odd!

The oddest part was that they didn't see any problem with this situation. It was inconvenient to their clients, yet that was lost on them.

This is all about messaging - what message were they sending to us and everyone else in the place? They didn't care about their clients. It wasn't their problem that we didn't have a place to sit. After all, they had tables to put together. Frankly, I was astounded. I kept thinking of all the ways they could have handled that differently.

1. They could have put the tables together and then swapped out the old for the new all at once.
2. They could have done a one for one swap - though that might be difficult with clients at the tables.
3. Oh wait! They could have swapped out the tables after they closed for the day or before they opened the next day!

Yes of course! When your focus is on your clients and ensuring they have an exceptional experience, you don't create a situation where they are inconvenienced. Not when you are in control of the situation.

The flip side is what happened. They were more focused on getting the tables switched over than on their clients. And it was noticed. I will most likely not be returning there. I am fully aware of how they feel about their clientele and my money is better spent someplace else.

Messaging comes in many shapes and sizes. And whether we realize it or not we are communicating our brand, beliefs, and values in many ways. We owe it to ourselves to do a gut check periodically and ask ourselves if we are keeping our clients in mind when we make decisions.

What do you think? Have you experienced a situation similar to this? Something that left you scratching your head? Please share.


Doug Rice said...

Excellent observation, Diane! Most likely, these Starbucks employees felt they were just doing their jobs. They were,after all, providing new tables for their customers, right? It seems they really failed to understand what was important to their customers. You noticed that the tables were missing. I'm sure you wouldn't have noticed if they were old.

Robin J. Sacks said...

Always interesting when you make the observation that "problem solving" is nearing extinction. Keen observation, Diane. You are right...we live in a world that is all about perception. As a business person who counts on something as simple as tables being where I am traveling to be productive, it sounds so counter-productive! I think we should "table the issue" for the moment. Thanks for sharing!

Diane said...

Doug - that's it exactly! I wouldn't have noticed if they were old. My expectation was that there would be chairs AND tables!

Robin, it is an interesting study of 'problem solving' isn't it?! Their focus is so singular. They couldn't think larger than the table updates.

Just some food for thought for those biz owners out there concerned about the client experience.