Years ago I worked for a company that prided itself on its customer service; they called it ‘legendary.” They didn’t just view customer service as the interactions between employees and guests or the quality of their food, but also as the cleanliness of the building. It was all part of the customer experience. One of the illustrations used to convey why cleanliness is part of customer service was The Coffee Stain Story.
A person books a flight across the country and they were able to get a great price and no layovers. The flight boarded on time, the seats on either side were empty, so there was plenty of room to be comfortable, the movie was good, and the headphones were complimentary. Flight staff was courteous and brought the passenger a free drink. The plane even landed on time. It was an incredible flight.
But, when they lowered the tray table, they noticed a small coffee ring stain. And even all of the free stuff, extra room, and no inconveniences, it was all they could think about. When they were asked “how was your flight,” they would respond with “It was OK, but my tray table was dirty. Had a big old nasty coffee ring on it.”
The story shows how the perception of their experience was hugely impacted by such a tiny detail, and customer perception is customer experience. It was taught to us to show how important every detail can be, and we must do all that we can to control the controllable.