I’ve had the same experience you’ve had. You arrive at the restaurant looking forward to a good meal and a respite from the day. You are seated and the waitress or waiter approaches. But they are stressed. Things aren’t going well. So, as though you are old friends, they unload on you. They tell you all that has gone wrong that day, from that rude customer to the demands of the boss to the loss of electricity that morning. Suddenly, your whole experience has changed. You aren’t settling in for a quiet, restorative meal. You have been brought inside the machinery—and it isn’t appetizing.
What you are feeling at that moment is natural. You as the customer want to stay on the outside. You want to enjoy the seamless service, the almost mystical experience of things you need appearing on time. Yet when someone brings you into the system, the mystery dissipates. The joy of being the outsider is lost. Now, you have to know more than you wanted to know, settle for less than you had hoped.
Customers want an experience that is smooth and untroubled and relatively mindless. They want what I call the “magic” of being a customer. You order from Amazon. The package comes the next day. How did Amazon do that? You don’t know. You don’t care. You are happy for the magic to continue. That’s what you pay for. It’s the same when you get a massage or order from a menu or see a doctor or take in a movie. You want some magic. You want things simply to appear without stress and worry.
In my work with leaders, I use the examples of two firms to illustrate this principle. In London, the Lloyd’s building is famous for the fact that the duct work, electrical power conduits, and water pipes are all on the outside of the building. It’s all visible to the public. I think it’s ugly and surveys show that most other folks agree. All the stuff that ought to be hidden is on the outside. It’s off-putting and, frankly, weird. This is the way some companies are, all the guts on the outside. But customers don’t want your inner stuff in their faces.
My other example is the Disney parks. You enjoy the rides and the characters. You don’t have to know that there are layers of tunnels underneath allowing goods and staff to get around the park unseen. You don’t have to know that the owl in that tree is actually a security camera or that the clown over there is actually a cop. You don’t have the guts in your face. You can simply have a magical experience.
Here’s the bottom line. You want your firm to be Disney not Lloyds. You want your customers to have a magical experience, not share your burden and never come back. So train your folks this way. Everyone from the receptionist to the VP of sales and beyond should know what the customer magic is and work to preserve it. This is one of the great keys of leadership greatness.