Have you noticed the new trend in reality television? The focus has turned away from famous families, survivor adventures, and Simon Cowell singing spin-offs. The new focus aligns with the focus of many businesses in today’s challenging economy: the customer experience.

The reason that many reality TV shows emphasize the importance of quality customer service is to create and deliver a memorable and positive customer experience. Mystery Diners, Restaurant Stakeout, Tabatha Takes Over, and Undercover Boss are some of the shows that stand out in this expanding genre.

This attention to customer service may seem odd on television, but what’s even odder is when a business is highlighted on television as being “customer centric” but then delivers a completely contradictory experience for customers.

I tuned in to a recent episode of Mystery Diners and was surprised to see a neighborhood restaurant featured. On this reality TV series, a team goes undercover to determine the root of specific problems and which employees are under-performing. Once the problems were discovered at my local restaurant, the restaurant owners thanked the host of the TV show, and the show ended.

However, while I had previously been a regular guest at this neighborhood restaurant, this most recent experience has put an end to my visits. My group and I entered and were greeted by an inexperienced greeter at the front desk. This was clear because, once we said we did not have a reservation, he rudely walked us over to the table closest to the kitchen – despite the fact that the restaurant was not busy. Then, we were welcomed by a waitress who did not know the menu – based on her comments. When a straw was requested, she brought an opened straw to the table and quickly slammed into my iced tea. She did not deliver our food to the table and never returned to inquire if everything was okay. At the end of our meal, we ordered crème brulée, but the waitress brought us knives and forks. Who eats crème brulée with a knife and fork? We had to request spoons.

And lastly, we had to request our check. When it arrived, there was a mysterious $6 charge. Since there was nothing associated with the charge, we asked for an explanation. We asked the waitress, and since the waitress never returned to the table, we waved over the manager and asked her. We waited 30 minutes for the bill to be corrected. The manager was incapable of correcting the bill, but she continued to walk around the restaurant without speaking with us. At this point, you would think that we would have been offered a discount on the check, or a free dessert for a future visit. But no apology was ever provided. Then to add insult to injury, when we eventually left, the young guy at the front desk was oblivious to me as I walked by him. When I said, “Excuse me,” he turned around and stepped on my foot.

It’s great to see TV shows placing an emphasis on the customer experience, however, if the brands that are featured don’t actually practice what they preach when they are featured on air, their brand equity falls flat. Don’t let that happen to your brand – clearly state your brand promise, teach it to your employees, and live it each and every day!
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