Image courtesy of Pixabay

Today I’m pleased to present a guest post by Jen Maldonado.

My one-woman campaign to defeat what I’ve termed “Gilded Fork Syndrome” was borne out of frustration (and no small amount of sarcasm) while wearing my consumer hat at a certain coffee shop chain near my office.

Short story long (bear with me; it ends well), I sat down to eat my just-purchased fruit cup after enduring a long wait to order it in the first place, only to realize I had not been given a fork to enable me to do so. I quickly apologized to the friend I’d met for lunch and excused myself to set off on what would become nothing short of a treasure hunt.

Were the forks on the counter near the register?  No.

Were they somewhere tucked away near the prepared foods in the refrigerated case the fruit came from?  Nope.

Were they over at the condiment stand beside the sugar and cream for doctoring up the coffee?  Nu-uh.

Were they atop ANY flat surface at ALL in the shop where other, clearly less-prized, items like napkins, stirrers and lids were being made readily accessible to paying customers like myself?  No-sir-ee.

Puzzled, I stepped back into line to await my turn for eye-contact – since clearly standing off to the side with an inquisitive look on my face sending “please help me” vibes was getting me nowhere!  And all the while, I was preparing mentally for that imminent cringe-worthy moment when the barista would extend his finger and condescendingly point out, “They’re right over there.” (Duh.)  But even more baffling was the actual reply received, spoken as the employee bent over to reach beneath the cash register on his side of the counter: “We keep them down here.”

Huh??  Speechless, I thanked him and returned outside to the patio table where my patient friend awaited me and had somehow resisted the urge to send out a search party during my prolonged absence in pursuit of this elusive implement.

“Forks of gold, apparently,” was all I could mutter as I apologized for abandoning her.  “Seems they wanted to keep them away from us corporate riff-raff.”

In all seriousness, why on earth would an eatery take something so essential as a FORK and stash it away somewhere completely inaccessible by its clientele?  My purchased product was already in hand; I just couldn’t consume it in an elegant fashion without this tool designed to facilitate its delivery. 

Granted, I could have gotten by with a crude workaround such as eating with my fingers like a caveman.  Certainly the caliber of the meal itself would have remained unchanged despite the two methods of intake being markedly different – just as my likelihood to return or recommend would have been despite the identical quality of the purchase in question.

In fact, even though I ultimately got my hands on that figuratively gilded fork just the same as if it were presented to me up front, the difficulty encountered while hunting it down managed to degrade my experience nonetheless.  Just goes to show, sometimes it’s not only the end state that matters, but also the means to that end and how painless it was getting to where X marks the spot.

So, what trove of useful tools is each of our companies making its customers hunt for?  What are we hiding away under lock-and-key that could potentially facilitate a more elegant experience with the products or services that we represent?

Few things are simultaneously more appreciated and resented than being provided with a quick tip, lesson learned, or best practice that immediately simplifies and improves your experience, only to make you wonder why in the world you had to make do for so long without it.  Tracking down such buried treasure in our own organizations and proactively surfacing it to our customers will bring rewards to all!

Jen Maldonado has 15 years’ experience in B2B customer relationship management, and has served in fully dedicated Customer Experience Management roles for the last 6 years.  A Certified Net Promoter® Associate, she is passionate about integrating the Voice of the Customer into decisions large and small, and about celebrating the successes of team members who deliver delightful experiences.