Beware Reasonableness


Here is a customer experience story for you. Today, I had given my car for servicing at my regular service station. As usual, there was a delay when I went to pick it up at the scheduled time. The car was still being washed. Post the wait & settling the bill, I finally got the car. I was keen to get home & avoid the evening traffic snarls. To my surprise though, I saw that the car was still dirty at many places.

On further inspection, I discovered it had not been washed at all. Not only was I charged for it, but I was also made to wait long for the wash. Obviously, I was furious and frustrated. I made a complaint to the managers. And I was on my way out after agreeing for a wash the next time there.

That’s it? Nothing more? Why didn’t I make a bigger issue of it? Why settle so quickly?

Beware the soul sucking force of reasonableness.
– Chip & Dan Heath

Inspite of the service station being clearly at fault, the reason I did not make a mountain of the issue was probably what had happened at the service station earlier in the day. Several acts that defied business reasonableness.

  • Early in the morning when I was dropping the car off, I had met the service manager. He wished me as soon as he saw me & ensured someone was attending to me at the earliest.
  • During both my visits on this occasion, I was offered drinking water (such a relief in Indian summers) & hot beverages.
  • Even more important, the person serving the water & beverages was genuinely smiling at customers. He seemed keen to serve & not just going through the motions.
  • And there was more than one person smiling at visiting customers, trying to make them feel comfortable & ensuring they were attended to quickly.
  • Even when the issue was discovered, there was no attempt to avoid the issue or blaming on lame excuses. All three levels of managers (service advisor, service team manager & the service station in-charge) –  acknowledged the issue, took responsibility for the same and apologised.

Decisions to the do the above acts could’ve all faced the challenge of corporate reasonableness. It is reasonable to save money by not giving free packaged water or beverages? Smiling, making customer feel comfortable & well attended to – this is a car service station, not a hotel for god’s sake!

The reasonableness defying acts were them building up their equity by take the initiative to give, give & give (the job jab jab in Gary Vaynerchuck’s terms). They cashed in their equity (the right hook) when they asked me to excuse them for their obvious mistake.