Fortunately, or unfortunately customers have a memory that sticks with them for a very long time.
About 25 years ago, I was the western VP for a company headquarted on the east coast. When I traveled there they always put me up in a hotel that, if I told you who it was, you would recognize the name. I will spare you the details, but one night I had a miserable experience while checking into my room. So miserable that I swore I would never stay at one of their hotels again! My experience is stuck in my memory banks. To this day, I will never stay at one of their hotels.
Is this fair? No. The fact is that this could have been an isolated incident. Since then, they could have improved and be fantastic at customer service. Maybe this one hotel was bad, but all the others in the chain are superior in service. But I won’t give them another chance.
Because I have other choices. Choice of hotels that I love. Choices in hotels that consistently deliver supreme service no matter where I stay. The memory of that one bad experience sticks with me and makes me feel upset whenever I think of them.
Over the past 25 years I’ve told thousands of people the story of my experience at this particular hotel. It has no doubt lost them some business. How much business I don’t know, but I know it’s some.
The memory our customers have of us carries consequences, good and bad.
Recently, having moved, I have an embedded memory of a terrible experience with a moving company and a huge disappointment in a furniture dealer. I will not recommend or use either of them again. And I will no doubt tell others—in fact I already have.
Memory is a funny thing. Most memories are embedded deeply not only in our brain cells but in the seat of our emotions. Memories bring feelings. Sometimes feelings so strong you feel like the event is right before you.
To all of us who serve our customers we would do well in always being aware that how we serve them now will have a result in the future, whether it be tomorrow or 25 years from now.