Meeting the expectations of your customers and your employees may not be just about what you offer but how people are programmed to react to change.
Here is a new piece of trivia for you: I am an NPR junky. I find so many fascinating things on the show that helps me as a person and in my business. This Halloween, I heard a fascinating story that researchers ran on Halloween night: Why Are Kids Who Get Less Candy Happier on Halloween? (the audio download is 4:29).
Half of the kids were given a full-sized candy bar, and half the kids were given the full-sized candy bar AND a piece of bubble gum. Then the researchers did surveys with the kids to ask about their experience trick-or-treating at this house. Logically, it seems that the kids who got more candy should be happier. However, the researchers found that the kids who got the candy bar and then the bubble gum were less happy than the kids who got only the candy bar. Researchers have found that the order in which things happen is important. When the kids got the great treat first and then the lesser treat second, they were let down. We as humans do not tend to think of experience as a whole, but we give more importance and weight to how the experience ends. So a person who has a great experience and then a slight decline is less happy than someone that has a terrible experience at first that gets slightly better over time.
[EasyDNNnewsToken:Left Justify Embed 300 x 250]I found myself thinking about all the ways this could be true in my business. First, I was thinking about the fact that it is accepted practice in our industry to start with a big Spring Cleaning and then down grade to an on-going maintenance cleaning after. While this makes logical sense, could we be setting ourselves up for a disappointed client when the on-going service is not as impressive as the first time cleaning? Are there ways I could counter this effect? Maybe if I go out of my way to explain it to the client, it would help. For example, in the trick-or-treat study above, I imagine the kids would have given a different answer if the kids that got the bubble gum were told they were special and everyone else only got the candy bar. Maybe it would also make sense to not do a large Spring Cleaning and instead build those items into the on-going service to avoid a let-down.
I then jumped to thinking about a client who cancels service with a complaint. How many times have we avoided calling that person because we know we cannot make them happy and it is no fun to get yelled at for no reason? Well according to this study, how things end is very important to the overall impression of the experience. If we are leaving the client at the moment of a complaint and service cancellation, we are ending on a low point. Would it maybe be worth it to send each client a very nice note thanking them for their feedback and a small gift with expectation of getting them back. Would this small improvement in service at the end lift the happiness of the client with the entire company?
Finally, what about my employees? We spend a great deal of time on-boarding them to the company, and they get to spend some one-on-one time with me once they get out of training. But what about on-going, when I am too busy to meet with them? Am I letting them down by not meeting with them on-going? What can I do to make sure their experience with the company only gets better over time? If an employee has a tough day, how can I lift her spirits at the end of the day to make sure it does not end on a downward note? These may seem like small things, but when I am honest with myself, I can see how all the early attention sets an expectation which I am not meeting over time.
So what do you think of this story? Did it give you any thoughts on your business, or do you think I am over-thinking a story about kids trick-or-treating? I would love to hear your opinions. Please comment below and get this discussion started.
Derek Christian is the owner of My Maid Service with locations in Cincinnati, OH and Dallas, TX, as well as a business coach through Cleaning Business Builders and publisher of CleaningBusinessToday.com. Derek is now an investor in several cleaning companies including My Maid Service Dayton and Real World Services Columbus. Derek is also a consultant for industry leaders Marvelous Maids and Castle Keepers.