Service Failure

Today I experienced something I learned about in a Services Marketing course while doing my MBA at Laurier. It’s what’s called “Service Failure.” I’m sure you’ve all experienced it one time or another.

This is when a service business promises you a certain experience, then fails to deliver.

In this case, it was a not-to-be named local haircutting salon I’ve been going to for a year or so. I always make an appointment, arrive on time, and typically wait 10-15 minutes before being started on.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my strict adherence to deadlines and schedules and my general annoyance at people who don’t.

To me, making an appointment with someone is a promise that they will be available at the specified time, barring an unforeseen calamity.

Nonetheless, I put up with the 10-15 minute wait because most places aren’t much better.

Well, today I came in on time, as usual, and was told, “Just finishing up here. Have a seat and I’ll be with you shortly.” I sat down, texted a bit, watched the general goings on. Then I went outside, and started talking to my girlfriend on the phone.

After talking on the phone for a while I looked at my watch and noticed over half an hour had passed since I arrived. I looked in and my haircutter was still cutting the last person’s hair.

So I left. They called me later on and asked what happened. I explained to them a half hour wait was unacceptable and I wouldn’t be coming back. They offered a free haircut, but obviously it’s too late at that point.

This is a service failure handled incorrectly. You see, we also learned in the course about a “service recovery.” This is a failure that you turn around into something that makes the customer happy.

What they should have done is realize when I came in that they wouldn’t be able to get me started within a reasonable amount of time. Then, they should have offered to reschedule the appointment, and possibly offer compensation for the wasted visit. Or, even better, they could have called me earlier in the day to reschedule when they realized they were running behind. Better still, they could be more realistic about their scheduling so they actually finish their appointments on time.

If you own a service-based business, pay attention to the promises you make and what you deliver. Customers aren’t all that demanding. They don’t need their expectations exceeded - just met - consistently.

If anyone knows of any good hair cutting places within walking distance of Uptown Waterloo, let me know.


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