While I was in Minneapolis, I went with my sister to return something at Nordstroms.  It did not go well.  In addition to waiting in line, the clerk did not offer to take the (heavy) return item from us or hang it up while processing the transaction.  After the return, another clerk was all but lecturing my sister on what she “should” have done before purchasing the item.

If you read a transcript of the interaction, it may not seem egregious.  But this was Nordstroms, known as the king of customer service, and so both of us expected something more.  By linking their brand to service, Nordstroms elevated our expectations and so ordinary was considered as sub-par.

The same phenomenon occurred when I stayed at a “luxury” hotel in Washington DC.  There was nothing tragic about my stay, but my expectations were higher and so the facility was a disappointment.  Small transgressions in housekeeping or service were exacerbated because I expected, based on their brand/literature/price, to be wow-ed and I wasn’t.  If the same room and front desk experience had happened at a Hampton Inn, it would have gone unnoticed, but since they position themselves as luxury I was looking for more.

It is easy in the marketing world to make bold claims and to boast about your product, but nothing could be worse if you don’t deliver.  Think carefully about the words you use and the step on which you stand.  If you can’t align reality with that, you are better off taking it down a notch instead of having disappointed customers knock you down several.

— beth triplett

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