Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Your Brand is Only as Strong as Your Weakest Link

So, the other day I’m flying to a speaking engagement. While waiting for my flight to board I bought a yogurt parfait. After paying for it, I looked for a spoon. There were knives and forks, but no spoons. The little compartment next to the knives and forks was empty. I asked the cashier if they had any spoons. He pointed to where they weren’t. I told him they were out, and in an effort to get rid of me, he suggested that I could go to the restaurant next store and ask them for a spoon.

I walked by the first restaurant a few minutes later and there were plenty of spoons. Obviously, there were spoons somewhere. The guy just didn’t want to get them, when a customer needed them.

I didn’t want to make a scene over this, but I thought I’d mention something to the manager. He wasn’t there when I bought my yogurt. He apologized, but then said something interesting. He mentioned that the restaurant was managed by a group at the airport, so I really shouldn’t expect the same service or quality I am accustomed to at this company’s regular restaurants.

This was a major brand with locations throughout the US. The airport restaurant had the same signage, the same logo and looked just like any of the restaurants you would visit outside of the airport. I’m sure that any executive of this brand would cringe at the response the manager gave me… “I really shouldn’t expect the same service or quality I’m accustomed to…” Really?!

And, that is where our lesson begins. You see, it doesn’t matter if it is an airport restaurant, a small kiosk or a full-service restaurant. There must be a similar experience across all locations, regardless of size or where it is. The logo is the logo, and the brand is the brand!

Let’s switch industries and talk about an icon in the world of customer service. When Nordstrom decided to move into the online world, many of their customers were concerned that they would erode their reputation for amazing service. Management thought long and hard about how to create an online experience that matched the expectation of a Nordstrom customer, and they delivered. Regardless of location – instore or online – Nordstrom will always focus on making sure the customer has the best experience.

Now we move to an employee within a company. If there are 100 employees, and 99 of them are amazing, but one is not, what happens when a customer encounters the one who is not? You know the answer. That one bad employee just created the reputation for your brand – at least with that customer.

The old saying is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Well, the brand is only as strong as its weakest location – or weakest employee.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

 
  1. Here’s the same story on the flipside. I worked for a company that had licensed locations of a national brand located within our larger spaces…perhaps the same one you encountered. I was visiting one of these locations and the menu wasn’t as robust as I was accustomed to. I asked our management team why we seemed to have the “express” version of the experience and I was told that because we were a “real” XYZ, we didn’t need to worry about delivering the full experience. My response? “If you’re not going to deliver the brand experience, why did you license it?”

    • Hi Julia – Great to hear from you. Agree with you. If you can’t give the customer what they expect, then beware of what happens as a result. Hope all is well in your world!

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