Image courtesy of Pixabay

I originally wrote this post for Shep Hyken’s blog on December 13, 2013. I’ve made some updates to the original.

It was Mark Twain who said, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” This has become my favorite saying, both with regards to customer experience and to life in general.

I’ve used this quote recently with my kids, and it’s an important code to live by. It speaks to honesty, integrity, and trust. It’s something that is just as important to your business and how you interact with them as it is to your friends and family and those relationships. As a matter of fact, if we raise our kids on this principle, perhaps they’ll become a part of the solution and never have to question the intentions of businesses of the future. We can only hope.

Why do I bring this up now? I have a few examples that I want to share that, pardon the pun, speak volumes on this topic.

In October, Debbie Laskey wrote a blog post about an experience she had at Office Depot that was celebrating a grand opening; what struck me (and her) was the sign on the outside of the store; it states:

NOW OPEN. Be a part of our new experience.”

What exactly does that mean? It seems that sign would set an expectation that, perhaps, great things are in store. Based on Debbie’s experience, Office Depot needs to work on various aspects of the experience, not the least of which is the employee training.

The sign reminds us that actions speak louder than words. If you have to say that you have a new experience, a great experience, or focus on your customers, then I’m suspicious. Just show me… don’t tell me. And then disappoint.

Next, Bernadette Jiwa wrote a post around the same time that elicited the same response.  Her post takes a different angle, but it conveys the same message: “You can market all you want, but in the end it’s your intention, not your marketing that shines through. The truth is that people will know and that’s not a drawback, it’s an opportunity.”

Don’t tell me what you’re going to do to try to make me love your brand, show me. Especially once you tell me, don’t disappoint – or else, game over. Now you’ve lied to me; how am I supposed to trust you in the future?

Last year, I wrote about post titled What’s Your Customer Effort (Score)? In it, I mention an example of an online shoe purchase I made. The retailer touted “Effortless Exchanges & Returns,” but if you read my story, you’ll see that it was nothing close to effortless. Just because you say it doesn’t make it so.

Here’s a different example. A few days ago, I saw a Blue Shield of California (BSC) commercial where they touted that they were named one of the world’s most ethical companies for the second year in a row. What does that mean for the consumer? BSC was awarded for their ethical business practices, but how does that translate to the actual customer experience? Apparently the two are not entirely related, as they received an “about average” rating for overall experience in the latest J.D. Power and Associates rankings.

Customers have their own expectations, but when you influence or raise expectations as a result of your words, your marketing efforts, then you need to deliver.

Performance – Expectations = (Dis)Satisfaction

Last year, Shep broached this topic from a different angle, and I like his closing statement:  Actions do speak louder than words. And when the words make a promise or set an expectation, meeting and exceeding that expectation is the big step toward creating “Customer Amazement.”

Amen to that.

Talk doesn’t cook rice.  -Chinese Proverb