Last week, my commute home was interrupted. I was frustrated when my train was behind schedule, and then taken out of service.

My reaction was similar to the reaction of those around me. “We are all late because your trains are running behind schedule, and your response is to kick us off the train and tell us to wait for the next one? Seriously, TriMet?”

The next day, it happened again. This time we were told there were too many trains. However, our train was nearly shoulder to shoulder. Saying there were too many trains, to those of us on the train, didn’t ring true. And it underlined that TriMet didn’t care about us, a train full of riders.

Over two days, we had an awful customer experience. The first time, we felt disregarded. The second time, we felt lied to.

But today, I am drafting this post on the train, living proof not every aspect of the customer experience matters.

Decide How You Compete

As marketers, you need to remember the basis you compete on. More importantly, you need to acknowledge you cannot compete on every front. Why do customers buy from you? What situations do you win customers in, and when do you lose?

Trimet understands this. They offer a reasonably reliable light rail commute option, free of traffic jams and accidents. It takes longer than driving and your travel companions are not always ideal, but for many of us that work downtown, TriMet is a better overall value and experience than driving and parking.

Trimet ignored my tweets complaining about service. They don’t monitor Twitter outside of business hours, when many of their customers are riding the train. Although frustrating, TriMet isn’t competing by providing the most responsive customer service.

Like any organization, TriMet has room to improve, but we won’t see large comfy seats or meal service on TriMet. Instead, they will continue to compete by providing a reliable and cost effective commuting option. They know the basis they compete on.

Your Turn

Do you know the basis you compete on? How do strike the right balance between cost, quality and features for your services? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).