The Bad Deli

by Rob Waldeck | September 28, 2009

grilled cheese sandwiches
Image by nettsu via Flickr

There’s a deli I go to 2-3 times a week just around the corner from the office. People ask where I’m going for lunch and I tell them, “the bad deli.” They look at me kinda confused and usually wonder aloud why I’d ever go to a bad deli.

It’s because I really like their sandwiches.

What’s bad about the deli is the process through which my sandwich is prepared. I feel rushed in ordering and the woman who takes my money says “thank you” to me with the exact same sing-song tone and lack of eye contact that she offers to every other customer. But what really bothers me is that my sandwich is manufactured in an assembly-line process in which 3 or 4 different people touch it — or, more precisely, slap at it — the dressing, the cheese, the meat, the lettuce, the tomato. Each item is slapped in place by a different person. None of them seems to care. But the sandwich tastes good, so I eat there regularly.

My experience at the deli is not unlike many customer experiences I have. Organizations — and the people in them — seem to believe that if they deliver a good result (deliverables met, on-time and within budget) that they have succeeded; that the customer should be pleased; that they have done their job well. It’s not true. They may have a satisfied customer that day but they haven’t created a customer for life.

It’s the experience and a successful outcome that produces customers for life. It’s why the Disney teacups trump those at any carnival. It’s why Best Buy trumped Tweeter. It’s why I go to Legal over all other seafood restaurants.

So I’ll continue to go to the “bad deli” for now, but I am always on the lookout for an alternative, for a deli that makes an equally delicious sandwich with the same care and attention to detail with which they’d make their own lunch.

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