June 9th, 2010
It happens every day. You ask your customer about their experience with your product, service or company. Your question is something along the lines of “How was everything?” Their response is a single word:
You want to believe that the customer means it was “wonderful,” “terrific,” “exceptional.”
You’re deluding yourself. If they meant “wonderful,” “terrific,” “exceptional,” they would have said so.
Instead, they said “fine.”
Which really means, “It didn’t suck too badly.”
In other words, their experience was:
Talk about damning with faint praise.
“Fine” is the worst thing you can hear from your customer. At least if they say something negative, you have the opportunity to resolve the problem. But the word “fine” is insidious, because it lulls us into believing things are great, when in fact they’re not.
Which is not to say the customer was dissatisfied, because they weren’t. They didn’t have any problems, per se, but they weren’t impressed either.
If your customers are consistently telling you that your product, service or people are “fine,” then you have a problem. Because in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to be mediocre, pedestrian or tolerable. You need to improve your customer experience.
The next time a customer tells you things were “fine,” ask them what could have been better.
Or be proactive:
• Conduct a survey of your customers or the whole marketplace
• Assemble a focus group or two (or three)
• Hire a mystery shopping company to give you accurate feedback
• Engage a consultant to help you come up with ways to improve
“Fine” is not fine. It’s just a notch above awful. Which is not an acceptable benchmark. If you want to boost your sales now and in the long-run, treat every “fine” you hear as a sub-standard review. Then take action until your customers consistently describe their experience in more glowing terms.