American Preferences Revealed in Learnings from Odd On-line Study

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The American Association of Online Retailers reported last week that We the People actually enjoy pop-up adds! Insane you say? Perhaps not.

In a lightly attended press conference Mitch Engle, senior research designer at Nielsen, presented the findings that Americans, more than any other people group, respond favorably to online pop-up advertising.

“We took a different approach to collecting data this time around.” Engle said, “In most of these types of studies people are presented with advertising that matches their online behavior and preferences as closely as possible. For the purposes of this study we presented people with an average of ten adds that had no connection to their online behavior for every one pop-up that had a connection.”

The results were astounding.

“What we found was that, over time, people actually started to click through adds that had no connection whatsoever to what their normal online behavior had previously revealed.”

The study also showed that time of day seemed to make a difference.

“We found that at those times when regular online activity, reading blog posts, checking Pinterest boards, Tweeting etc. we’re at a lower ebb people tended to click through one off adds more frequently.”

When asked why he thought this was the case Engle had a ready answer.

“Americans are enamored with their online “communities”. Their online relationships offer a sense of control that just isn’t present in real life and so more and more people are spending more and more time in this controlled environment. This provides a real boon for advertisers because when a shopper feels that they are in control of the experience they are more likely to buy.”

Recent changes to Facebook helped accelerate and confirm results

“When Facebook went public we really had a chance to start hitting people more frequently with adds. We put them in their newsfeed, we put them in the margins more often and even started popping them up in games and other apps.”

But aren’t most of us annoyed by these pop-ups? Not according to Engle.

“The average Facebook user is in their late 30’s, has a little over 200 friends and typically uses the online platform to send private messages. That means that when they’re online checking and have nothing new to read, either in terms of status or messages they hang around to see if something “pops-up” (pun intended). At those off times of the day we can hit them with adds that are completely nonsense to them and, after an acclimation period, they’ll start to click through them. The click through to purchase rate is well over 35%”

But what about people in other countries?

“The research seems to indicate that people in other countries view their online relationships as being mush less critical to their daily lives. I’m not a social theorist, nor was that the intent of this study, but if I had to guess I’d say people in other countries tend to get out more. Going out to dinner in, say, Italy or Brazil is a five or six hour affair. In the States people are in and out.”

So what does this mean for us, the online consumer?

“Well”, said Engle, “if the shoes fits someone is going to sell it. People are buying from adds with no connection at a greater than 35% rate so we can probably expect more and broader advertising to encumber our online experiences.”

Oh great.

What do you think? Do these findings make sense to you?

Check out the full results of the study at:

Ohmygoshyoubelievedthatonaprilfoolsday.com

A Matter of Perspective

225This past Sunday I found myself driving to the airport in the pre-dawn darkness planning on staying awake just long enough to sleep through a two hour, early morning flight to Dallas.

As I smoothly guided my little MR2 around the corner from I25 onto I225 north I found myself momentarily befuddled. You see I225 actually heads mostly east at this point, yeah, don’t ask, and there, in front of me, in the phantom light of early morning, I saw mountains on the horizon.

If you’ve ever been to Denver you know the mountains are on the west. To the east is the beginnings of the great plains…NO mountains…even very few hills.

I started to wonder if I had taken the wrong exit. I started checking the road that I had taken so many times before to be sure all the proper landmarks were in place. The entire landscape started to look unfamiliar and different. It probably took me close to 30 seconds to fully convince myself I was headed in the right direction.

And then I realized the “mountains” were just clouds.

For the next ten minutes or so my mind kept bouncing back and forth between the assurance that I was following a well known path and the suspicion that I was headed into some entirely new, unknown, potentially misleading landscape. I must have checked the next six or seven exit signs just to be sure they were filing by in the corrected order. But that rolling feeling of strangeness and discomfiture continued.

Fortunately I wasn’t lead astray. I stuck to, constantly glancing at the mountainous clouds which became more and more evidently clouds as the sun came up and as it did my discomfiture ebbed.

Those several minutes stuck with me though and made me wonder, how often does this kind of thing happen in everyday living? How often does some odd cloud on the horizon of life suddenly change my entire perspective and cause me to question where I am headed, cause me to question if I even really know where I am at all?

Allow me to share three lessons I learned from my Sunday morning encounter:

1. We’ll all encounter clouds on the horizon of life.It is inevitable. Usually we know they’re clouds and we know how to handle clouds but sometimes they’ll look a LOT like something else, something different, something disturbing to our normal order. When that happens remind yourself they’re just clouds.

2. Clouds are temporary

When you find odd shaped clouds on the horizon of life remember that clouds are temporary. Yes they may LOOK like permanent mountains but don’t allow that to stop you. Consider them carefully and you’ll discover they’re really clouds, no need to change course. (Of course CAREFUL consideration is the key…just in case you ARE going the wrong way and they ARE mountains!)

3. We don’t have to be fooled.These confounding clouds can confuse us but when we stick to what we know rather than giving in to the emotion of the moment we find that our path hasn’t changed, nor does it need to change. We can, and will, continue towards our goal, even getting a laugh out of the moments confusion if we allow ourselves the freedom to laugh.

When we find ourselves confronted by a confusing set of clouds on the horizon, if we remember that it is expected, it is worthy of careful consideration and it is temporary we can more easily navigate the confusion they cause and continue towards our original goal. It’s really a matter of perspective.

What are the “mountainous clouds” that have popped up on your horizon? How have you navigated that strange set of moments?

 

The Tebow/Lewis Conundrum

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timrayIt’s funny how a year changes things.

Last year, when Tim Tebow was leading the Broncos to their first playoff win in a long while the media could not get enough opportunity to bash him for what they saw as an over the top display of faith that some said had no place on the football field.

I’ve found it interesting then this year, as the Ravens have made their unprecedented run to the Super Bowl, that very little is being said about Ray Lewis’ outspoken display’s of faith.

Oh sure there are the undercurrent of social media debates both amongst and between those on the far right and far left of the socio-politico-religious scale. I’ve seen Lewis actions lauded as those of a man who has “found Jesus” and decried as fake by those who remember Lewis as a murder suspect back in 2000. In either case though the press seems largely unimpressed.

Which makes me wonder…why?

In my musings over the mystery of the media’s maligning of my man Tebow and their seeming silence on the self same stuff with senior statesman Lewis I’ve considered a cadre of conspicuous contributors:

(All of which is to say I think I’ve figured out what happened.)

1. TimeTewbow was a rookie, a highly touted rookie but a rookie nonetheless.  He hadn’t had any time in the league to establish himself with anything other than pre-draft hype.  Although Tebow had been highly regarded throughout his college career he hadn’t had the same kind of media attention that players get in the NFL. In short the media hadn’t really had an opportunity to build a relationships with him.

Ray has been in the league for seventeen years. Granted that time has been turbulent at points but over the course of time the media has been able to craft an understanding of how they relate to Ray and how he relates to them.

I think it is very true in this case that time equates to relationship.

2. PerformanceThis one is almost a double edged sword because while Ray had proven himself over time, Tim WAS proving himself in his short opportunity to do so. I actually believe now, in hindsight, that part of the shots that were being taken at Tim were specifically because he was winning when by all intents and purposes he should not have been able to pull out those wins.

The media really didn’t want to admit that this kid, who looked like he really was NOT an NFL passer, was somehow winning games that he should be losing because of his relationship with God. Tim put them in a place where they had to consider that as a possibility. Tim wasn’t winning WITH God, Tim was winning BECAUSE of God and that didn’t sit well. We’ll never know, on this side of the box, whether God was orchestrating wins for Tim but the media certainly didn’t want to entertain that possibility.

By contrast Ray Lewis has proven himself a proficient, first ballot hall of fame, linebacker. Ray wins. If Ray wants to give credit to God the media can give each other a wink and a nudge and say, “Ok, but you won before you got religion too.”

This combination of time and performance creates a certain credibility in relationship. Faith has a place in the public arean of football no doubt. But the arena IS football. The Tebow/Lewis Conundrum seems to support the notion that the people who manage the popular opinions ensconced in that arena are willing to accept faith second if football is proved first. You can be good at football solely because of faith, they don’t like that.

Which leads me to wonder:

  • What are the arenas in life where our faith is welcomed AFTER we’ve proven ourselves in the arena?
  • Where are the places that we can invest time and performance that produces credibility?
  • How patient are we in building that street cred before bringing faith to bare?

 

Winnings, Endings, and a New Respect

playoffsI started playing football when I was 10 and had the good fortune to play all the way through college and a little bit beyond. That’s why I both love and hate the playoffs.

You see when a football season ended I always had a terrible ache in my gut. Whether it was the season in middle school when we one only one game, the year we lost in the NCAA Division II semi finals, or the time we won the Ukrainian National Championship, season over, same nasty feeling.

So for the last two weeks I have had that same feeling, several ties over, Saturday and Sunday.

This past weekend was one of the worst. I went in to the weekend with high hopes only to exit the weekend with just 1 out of 4 of my hoped for winners emerging triumphant and yes, the Broncos loss was the hardest to take.

In terms of those losses let me just say this: I can’t stand playing conservative offense at the end of the game with the lead. If you keep the ball the other team cannot possibly score. I also don’t like playing some skanky prevent defense. If your regular defense has you in the lead after 59:30 why change it? Ok, done with that.

If you think about it this internal sinking of the gut at seasons end isn’t really meant to be. I mean, look at where we started out. Adam and Eve, in the garden, tree of life available for the eating, eternity in our grasp. We could have lived without endings, without regrets, without the sinking gut.

Sure we still would have invented football, probably early on, and there still would have been winners and losers but every game would have been hard enough fought and scheduled with enough chance at a replay that we’d have always felt we had done our best and that the better team had truly won. Sheesh, we might not have even needed referees if you think about it!!

Unfortunately though endings and regrets are a part of the human condition. I think God gives us the grace to live through them but I think he also gives us the gut check to remind us that one day we won’t have to any longer.

Which brings me to my new respect.

I used to really, I mean reallllly, dislike Ray Lewis. There was all that legal craziness when he came into the league, he always seemed a little too cocky and he always seemed to beat the guys I was rooting for. But I have to say Ray has mellowed with age. The guy is a completely class act from what I’ve seen over this, his last season. I even find myself thinking that it wouldn’t be all bad if the Ravens win the Super Bowl. (I will however be rooting for the NFC this year.)

I don’t know Mr. Lewis so I can’t say for sure what’s gone on with him but he does sound a little like Tebow in his praise for the Lord. Funny how people jump all over Tim but just nod and smile at Ray. I guess they’ve seen him thump enough heads. I hope I can finish my race with the same amount of grace Ray seems to be exuding as he finishes this one.

I also hope the 49ers win the Super Bowl and that Alex Smith has to come in on the final drive…but that’s a different story.

What do you think of Ray Lewis’ run into the end of his final season?

 

 

eCommerce: When Experience Trumps Information

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fightMy 13 yr. old daughter was expounding on the dangers of internet predation last night as a result of starting a new technology class. Her information was spot on until she tried to explain to me how the internet had no doubt changed since the 70′s and 80′s.

I had to tell her that as far as mere mortals went there WAS no internet in the 70′s and 80′s.

Back in the 90′s however, when the internet was building into the juggernaut it is today, the phrase amongst those of us who were building websites was “Content is King”. You see, it was all about the information.

In the more recent past, yesterday to be exact, I found myself ordering electronics online. I needed to get an external hard drive and an SD card and have them shipped to my son’s college address. A seemingly simple task to be sure.

Best Buy was showing the lowest price, but their only available shipping method wouldn’t get the goodies there on time. Of course I only found that out after getting to the last stage of the check-out process. I certainly could have used some shipping information earlier in the game.

Next I went to TigerDirect, they usually have the lowest price, and found that they were only slightly more expensive than BestBuy BUT they offered second day shipping. I’ve used them before and been well satisfied with my purchases.

Once again I wove my way through the shopping cart experience, not significantly different than any other shopping cart experience really, and got to the end where I could confirm that I wanted second day shipping. This is where Tiger made the information play…for every shipping option available the site provided the estimated arrival date of the shipment. Pretty cool huh? A great piece of information to include, yes?

Well… it seems that choosing second day shipping on Jan. 8 had the good arriving in California on Jan 15. Next day service got them there by Jan 14 !?!

I wanted to confirm this odd math so I first tried the online chat function which told me they were too busy to answer. I next tried calling customer service and after 35 minutes on hold I surrendered.

A new Google search lead me to ADORAMA. I’d never heard of them before but they appeared to have the items in stock. Once again I filled my cart, created a payment profile, and selected second day shipping. This site didn’t show me any estimated arrival dates.

I called customer service who answered straight away. I explained my situation, wanting to be sure that if I paid for two day shipping that it would in fact take two days. After providing the SKU’s I was looking for the agent confirmed that if my order was entered prior to 8:00pm EST is would indeed arrive in Thursday, if my order was confirmed later than 8:00 the items would arrive Friday.

They got my business.

TigerDirect provided the most comprehensive information of any of the three sites. But the information seemed wrong in context…leading me to my second axiom from the early days of the internet: “Content is King but Context is Crucial.”

It is likely the situation that The Case of the Odd Shipping Dates has something to do with distributed order fulfillment or in stock items or some such internal, logical excuse. I don’t care. Two days is two days.

In this case the vendor who presented LESS information won because they provided a significantly better customer experience.

As a result I now have a new bookmark for finding consumer electronics. Experience trumps Information, and sometimes, it even trumps price.

Is it your experience the eCommerce sites generally provide the right amount of information or do you find your self scrammbling to sort it out as often as not?

Customer Experience Failure of the Week

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Our Christmas Holidays included some crazy travel arrangements this year. Amongst them was a last minute change of plans to drive back to Colorado from Palm Springs, Ca.

As will occasionally happen we found a great rate on a one way rental from Fox Rental Cars.

We don’t normally rent from Fox but every once in a great while they have a rate that makes it worth the extra little bit of hassle to find them off airport. While I’d rather enjoy the benefits of being preferred or gold or select I am not above saving good money when I can.

The vehicle we got was fine, an upgrade from our original reservation actually at no additional cost, or so we thought at least. Until we got about two thirds of the way home.

It was then that we discovered the wind shield washers, those little dealios that spray fluid on the glass, didn’t work. We discovered this quite by accident while driving behind a truck, that was kicking up melted snow, in a tunnel. The windshield wipers, faithful to their end of the bargain wiped grime across my field of vision so thick that I almost had to stop…something you just don’t do in a tunnel.

The rest of the ride home, several hours, was spent pulling on and off the freeway to wash off the windshield. Yes, we checked the fluid level, it was full. Yes, we stirred it to be certain it wasn’t frozen. Yes, we shook the lines to break up any blockage. Nothing.

When we returned the car the conversation went something like this:

Fox Guy: How was the vehicle?
Us: Fine except the windshield washers don’t work
Fox Guy: Yeah, sometimes that happens in the mountains when it is cold.
Us: We checked, the fluid wasn’t frozen.
Fox Guy: Huh.
Us: It was pretty dangerous a couple times.
Fox Guy: <nothing>
Us: You probably want to check that before you rent it out again with all the melted snow on the ground.
Fox Guy: Uh huh.

We weren’t looking for a free rental. We weren’t looking for a mechanic to run out to the vehicle to fix it. We were just looking for some acknowledgment that there had been a failure on the part of Fox to provide what we needed. Now, had they offered us 10% off or even a simple apology I’d probably have been satisfied. But not even a mea culpa? Come on!!

If you’ve been a follower of my blog you know I have strong feelings about how to handle this kind of thing correctly.

In this instance however Fox have been weighed, they have been measured, and they have been found wanting. Fail.

What customer experience wins or fails did you have over the holidays?

 

 

13 Things You Should Do in 2013

Image courtesy of ba1969 at sxc.hu

I spent the past week with family in California and was traveling most of the day yesterday or I would have posted my annual to-do list before now.

Here are my 13 suggested things to do to make 2013 even better than 2012:

 

1. For every “improvement” resolution you’ve made make two “enhancement” resolutions.
People always try to resolve to get better at something they didn’t do well in the last year, or to try to get better at something they don’t do well. Research shows we improve faster when we focus on areas of strength rather than weakness. So for every weakness you’re trying to beat in 2013 pick two strengths you’ll work to get develop even more.

2. Don’t look back with regret without taking a step to use regret for good.
Every time you look back, sigh, and think, “I wish I would have…” or “I should have…” you have to finish the statement with “…and so today I am going to…”

3. Write down three stories, about you, from your childhood.
Your kids, or your nieces and nephews, or your neighbors kids will love them. Start the title of each story with “The Adventure of the _______________” and fill in the blank.

4. Re-read a favorite book from your younger years.
Different places in life bring different reactions to stories. Try on an old friend this year.

5. Memorize something.
It could be a poem, a story, a passage of scripture, a longish joke…you’ll be surprised how it comes in handy to have a new piece in the database.

6. Watch classic film.
They’re classics for a reason, usually because the story and characters span the test of time. Pick one you’ve never seen before.

7. Laugh with people more often than you laugh at them.
This will be difficult for me.  :)

8. Commit at least one act of astonishing generosity.
This could be as simple as paying for the person behind you in line at the Starbucks drive-thru or giving away a car you don’t drive much any more.

9. Establish a new tradition.
They all started somewhere.

10. Give someone a  chance to express their opinion.
This should really be someone whose opinion does not agree with yours. Let them explain and rather than debating listen to their point of view. It might not change YOUR point of view but at keast you’ll understand the “other side” a bit better.

11. Try a different diet for at least a week.
I tried going vegetarian for a week once and it lasted 6 months.

12. Have three conversations as though you were a regular character on a reality tv show.
Try one at work, one with friends, and one with family. Don’t tell them what you’re doing.

13. Laugh more…out loud.
I do this when I run and it always seems to lighten the load for at least a couple hundred yards.

What would you add to the list?

A Contemporary Take on the Christmas Story

Image courtesy of Ambrozio at sxc.hu

This is a bit of a traditional Christmas post. The tune has changed over the years but the words have been in my family for some time, even passing down to the next generation now. I hope you enjoy.

 

A number (OK, a pretty large number) of years ago my brothers and I were asked to “put together a rap” for a Christmas program at church. We decided we’d try to stay as true to the text as possible, obviously taking some poetic license as you’ll see, so for grins you might want to open your Bibles to Luke chapter 2.

OK folks I’m gonna take a shot
I’m gonna tell you what it is and what is not
We’re gonna take a little trip back in time
To when the Roman Empire was in its prime

Now in this days there went out a decree
Telling everybody where they had to be
The Roman emperor Cesar was on people’s backs
And wanted to be sure that everyone was taxed
And so in order to be counted everybody had to come
Unto the city that their ancestors were from

A Galilean named Joseph from Nazareth
Went to Judea to the city of David Beth-
lahem was the place that he had to sign
Because he was a descendant of David’s line
And he took with him his wife to be
And you know that her name was Mary

Now Mary was a virgin but she was with child
A lot of people today think that that sounds wild
But it was not strange bizarre or odd
She was the chosen human mother of the son of God

But getting back to the story of Joseph and Mare
They went to Bethlehem and when they got there
You know it seemed that Mary’s time had come
And that then and there she’s gonna have a son
But since the inn was full they had no place to stay
so she laid the baby Jesus down in the hay

Now in that region watching over their flocks
There were some shepherds in the fields eating bagels and lox
When a glorious angel of the Lord appeared
And as the glory shone around them they were filled with fear

“Be not afraid for I bring good news”
“Of great joy to all people both Gentiles and Jews”
“For unto you is born today in Bethlehem”
“The savior Christ the Lord”, the angel said to them
“And this to you shall be a sign”
“that the baby you might more easily find”
“He shall be laying in a manger in swaddling clothes”
The shepherds looked around and said, “what are those?”
And then suddenly and amazing thing
A multitude of angels began to sing

They “appeared to the shepherds in the sky
Singing glory to god in the highest
And on earth peace among men
Because the Lord most High is pleased with them”

Now when the angels had finished the shepherds turned
They went to Bethlehem because of what they learned
And I think you’re gonna know just what I mean
When I say that this was the nativity scene
It was the Bethlehem stable where the shepherds went
Along with three wise men from the orient
The three kings had brought frankincense and myrrh
And I’m not really sure what those things were
But that’s really not important but neither is
Santa Clause Rudolph and all that biz

The real deal of Christmas is that it shows
God’s love for us because he chose
To send to us his only son
To make salvation possible for everyone

Hope you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas!

What Would You Do IF…?

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What would you do today if the world were really ending tomorrow?

It’s probably a good thing the Mayans are no longer around. I think they’d feel quite mocked, although I am certain their capital would be surrounded by press trucks, their leading elders would all be fielding interview questions, and their cultural norms would be the subject of much scrutiny.

While there are a few folks who seem to be hedging their bets I haven’t had anyone offer up their cars, homes or credit cards for me to use here in the last 24 hours. So I think it is safe to say most of us don’t believe.

But what if it were all coming to an end tomorrow?

Is there a food you have always wanted to try?

Is there a movie you’ve wanted to see?

Is there one last Angry Birds achievement to beat?

Is there a boss you’ve wanted badly to tell off?

Is there one last beer to drink in order to finish the Old Chicago World Beer Tour?

Is there someone you’ve always wanted to kiss?

Is there someplace you’ve always wanted to travel?

Is there a flight that gets there today?

Is there someone in your life who needs to know how much you really love them?

Is there someone who you need to share your faith with one last time?

Is there someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?

Is there someone you need to forgive?

Maybe the gift of the Mayans is not the knowledge that the calendar ends. Maybe the gift of the Mayans is a reminder that we should live our lives as though tomorrow IS the end of the world. Maybe the novel idea of living with daily intentionality, with fatalistic purpose, or with a sense of urgency is one worth considering.

If today were truly the end of days then what would each of us do?
Would we drink and dance, confess our love, or go one last time to the zoo?
Would we take a risk?
Would we roll the dice?
Would we bury our heads ‘neath the sheets?
What would YOU do given 24 hours to be sure that your life was complete

What are you going to do with your last day?

Bonefish Grill and The Importance of Being MORE than Earnest

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Back in February I posted a comparison between two, quite different, customer experiences: Mike’s Camera vs Bonefish Grill.

For those who’ve not seen it the post tells the story of how each company messed up a reservation and how they handled it. It describes how Bonefish Grill had been a family favorite of ours but that they had so badly goofed on a Mother’s Day reservation that we probably would never go back.

Well, I’m here to say we finally gave them another chance. I’d received an email promotion for a steak and lobster meal that sounded too good to pass up so, against my better judgement, and swayed by memories of good meals, we decided to give them another shot.

The evening started off fine, we were seated quickly, and promptly served drinks. Then things started to slip a little.

We were told that they were out of one of the items on the specials menu and that the pork chops were gone as well. No worries, neither item had been on our radar. Moments later we were told that they were also out of tilapia. I thought it was kind of odd that they’d be out of so many different items at 6:45 on Sunday with no wait. The big issues now though was that the global tilapia shortage meant there were three or four additional items that were out of play and those items WERE on our radar.

As the server left to give us a chance to reassess our orders I leaned across the table and said, “If they’re out of the special I’m thinking we just leave.”

When the server came back to take our order she apologized for the tilpia scarcity and offered free desserts, on them, to make up for it. “Ok,” I thought, “At least they’re trying and they’re landing in the sweet spot for customer service so…good on ‘em.”

To make a long story short…

The special was great, and in stock. The other meals were up to snuff, our expectations for good food exceedingly well met. Our drinks were kept full. All in all an earnest effort by the staff even if we’d been mildly put out by a certain level of snarkiness that would normally have been just on the outer edge of not quite good but barely acceptable.

Three desserts duly arrived and a short time later so did the check. Full charge for the post dinner dainties included.

Normally, with good food and good service we would merely have pointed out the mishap. But with a recent history of bad experience, snarky service, and a failed promise we’d had enough.

My children and I were all for writing “free dessert” in on the tip line on the bill but my wife is much nicer than we are so we tipped the staff somewhat below our normal standard and departed somewhat put out by the experience.

So what can be learned by the failure of a second chance?

1. You never know when a customer is giving you a second…or last…chance.
Because of that the level of service needs to be consistently high whether people are coming in for the first time or the last chance.

2. When circumstances conspire against you, up the game, for real.
Being out of goods isn’t the fault of the staff. But the ability to make it better IS in their control, or should be. When circumstances go bad you have to up the game not just with lip service but with over the top customer experience.

3. When you’ve lost a fan you’ve lost more than a sale.
Bonefish may or may not care if I ever come back. They can point to the fact that they swayed me back with an enticing promotional offer. Fair enough. What they have lost though is the fact that I no longer recommend them, something I used to do regularly and often.

Have you ever had a customer experience that took you from fan to ban like the one we just had last night?