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The Single Biggest Blunder A Business Can Make

By October 7, 2013March 25th, 2014True Stories
The Single Biggest Blunder A Business Can Make

Let me start by sharing the shortest story ever.

I once went to KFC and was told they were out of chicken. I was pissed. The end.

The moral of the story?

KFC committed the single biggest blunder a business can make. It had nothing to do with an off-color tweet, a website that wasn’t optimized for mobile, or poor customer service.

It had nothing to do with a dirty tray, not enough registers being open, or watered-down soda.

KFC committed the single biggest blunder a business can make because it failed to deliver on its most basic promise.

Okay, there’s a little more to the story. Believe it or not, I’ve been to KFC maybe five times in my life. But my wife, who was pregnant at the time, had a craving for fried chicken.

Being the good husband, I embarked on what should have been a simple journey to find some finger lickin’ good chicken.

That, by the way, is one of the greatest marketing slogans of all time, which is one more reason why I was so disappointed and Colonel Sanders probably just rolled over in his grave.

I wasn’t looking for something healthy or anything close to a five-star dinner. But when I go to a place with a name that’s an acronym for “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” I expect to be able to purchase some damn fried chicken.

In a state of disbelief after this stunning turn of events, I continued on my mission to find fried chicken and eventually satisfied my wife’s craving, thanks to some random, hole-in-the-wall chicken joint.

Now I’m not naïve. A multimillion dollar corporation like KFC isn’t going to be stung by an incident like this. However, a small or midsized business that fails to deliver on its most basic promise is digging its own grave.

It’s no easy task to win someone’s business. Someone may have chosen to make a purchase from your company based on effective marketing, a recommendation from a friend, or a bad experience with another company.

Regardless of the reason, they chose to hand money to you instead of your competitors, whether those competitors are national brands or other small and midsized businesses.

You won their confidence and their trust and created high expectations. But when you fail to deliver, you disappoint customers and lose that confidence and trust. Probably forever.

Your brand is your promise – a promise to solve a problem, fill a need or deliver something of value to your customers. Break that promise and you kill your brand, one customer at a time.

In today’s social media age, those stories tend to spread quickly. A small nick in the windshield can spread into a giant, spider web-like crack overnight.

Just like our content and marketing in general need to be special in order to be effective, we need to keep our promise by delivering outstanding results – the kind of results that get shared and remembered and earn someone’s loyalty.

We have to do this every single time.

I’ve dealt with my share of business owners over the years who think great marketing will do their job for them. Actually, the best way to expose poor business practices or a weak product is with great marketing.

Back in my radio days, advertisers would tell me that I needed to rewrite their commercial because it wasn’t working. Listeners contacted them, but they weren’t spending any money.

I politely informed these advertisers that if listeners made the decision to contact them based on the commercial, and then chose to not do business with them, the commercial was doing its job. The advertiser wasn’t.

People won’t settle for average, much less poor, whether it’s an average customer experience, average customer service, or an average product. Give them 30 seconds on their smartphone and they’ll find another option.

How a company gets beyond average and delivers something truly special can’t just be written into a mission statement or a company manual. It needs to be ingrained in the company culture.

The single biggest blunder we can make as business owners, especially small or midsized businesses, is failing to deliver on our most basic promise and falling short of the expectations that led someone to our business in the first place.

KFC can afford to lose a few customers. Can you?

What do you do to ensure that your business is delivering on its promise to customers?

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Great tip, Scott!

    You are right about stories becoming viral. Negatives experiences, especially, get a lot of attention through likes and shares. So, it is important to not be one among them.

    To deliver on our promise. Of course, we don’t have to over deliver (it would be nice to do it though. Strengthen our relationship with the customer – get recommendations and more business!). Just deliver on our promise. Give the customer what he/she demands, and provide a good experience while you are at it.

    Thanks for sharing the story!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Jeevan. I think to many businesses get caught up in trying to over-deliver that they forget to deliver their basic promise. Just focus on delivering on the basic promise and do it well. Then think of ways to kick it up a notch.