Frank Lessons from the Green Couch

We bought this green couch from an online startup. The company we bought it from will remain nameless to protect the guilty.  But it rhymes with “Farticle”.
Buying this couch was not a snap judgement purchase. This was an investment to rise above our IKEA, Craigslist, Target startup furniture and move into the big leagues of cool office adults. Deciding on a big purchase is no small task. You have a lot of opinions from the team and a slew of discussions on why this one is us and that one is not us until you reach a decision that everyone can get behind. A unanimous favorite. Which is important to get to. Because, hey, it’s a couch. It’s going to be around for a while. So, when we found this green couch, we thought the following:
“What an awesome couch” – all of us.
We ordered the couch and we waited. In the meantime, we were excited, anxious, dreaming of how it would transform the space and all the compliments we’d get. Then, two months later, the couch arrived! AND — it was BLUE. It was not the green couch. Sigh. And here is where the saga to get the Green Couch begins.
We called.
Them: “Oh, that’s weird. We’ll check on that.”
Then we waited. Waited. Waited some more. No news, no status, no nothing. Crickets.
We called: “Hey, where’s our couch?”
Them: “Still working on it. It’s on its way.”
Calls, left messages, calls, messages, emails sent. Again waited. Called again.
Them: “Okay, now it’s coming.”
Us: “When is it coming?”
Them: “We’ll send you an email.”
The email they send us states a delivery time that is in the past by several days.
Us: “You sent the wrong delivery date. Unless you can go back in time and deliver the correct couch when you said you would?”
Them: “We can’t do that. But the couch is coming.”
Them: “Soon.”
Insert the sound of a month passing. And many more unreturned phone calls.
Finally, the new couch arrives. And it’s like… not that great. Is it not great because of what it looks like? Or is it not great because the customer experience now makes us blame the couch? The couch that was going to make us all feel like we were big time. That couch is now looked upon with not-so-silent resentment. (We’re working through it.)
The Green Couch reminds us of a core truth in business. When you’re a customer and you pick a product that you’re excited about, the product is only one piece of what you’re buying. You are also buying (knowingly or unknowingly) the experience of buying the product. Which means the way the website looks and functions if you buy online, or how the store is set up and designed when you buy in a store. How are you treated? What positive endorphins are flowing through you, screaming this is exactly what I was looking for! What does the packaging look like? What is the checkout process like? Did someone help me find and make my purchase? Did I like them? If there’s a problem, would they fix it? And would they fix it in a reasonable amount of time? Does it seem like they care? Like they want me to come back? Like they appreciate my business?
The Green Couch company started strong and then started stinking up the room as time went on. They treated us without consideration. They got by with the least amount of effort so they could be done. They lost not only our business, but the hope of us recommending them to anyone else. They disappointed us to a point where they have inspired me to write this story as an example of what not to do in your business.
You can have a great product, but it’s the process that builds brand loyalists. It squashes commodity and it leads to brand ambassadors.
So, in conclusion, sweat the details. Care about the process. Care about the customer. Then, they’ll care about you. And then, if we’re really lucky, we can all start a family band and live happily ever after.
Green Couch update: we’re in counseling and we’re working through it. We loved each other once and we can again. Watch this space for more Frank Lessons from the Green Couch.

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