What do you do when a brand is so good no matter how bad it treats their customers?
While on vacation, I frequent a particular restaurant. It's a basic health food restaurant (salads, smoothies, sandwiches, etc...) and everything is fresh and delicious (no kidding). The problem? The wait staff is terrible. To the point of embarrassment. The service is also slow (have you ever waited 45 minutes for a salad?). The owner doesn't seem to care (I've seen this person have multiple fights with either customers or staff in the middle of the restaurant). If you head over to Yelp, you'll see comments that not only agree with my sentiments but expand - in graphic details - on the challenges that this establishment faces.
Do you think this brand cares?
It doesn't. They don't respond on Yelp and if you complain at their location, they seem unaffected. How bad is it? I actually had great service there by one of the wait staff and when I told them how impressed I was, their answer was, "thanks... I know that we have a reputation for terrible service." Imagine that: the staff is letting their customers know that they have terrible service. On another trip, I did a take-out order (thinking that it might ease the pain). After having my order taken by a young woman who may as well have been doing her nails and speaking on her iPhone while taking my order, I wasn't surprised that three items were missing. When I asked for them politely, she snarled back at me, "are you sure you asked for this stuff?"
It's not a new story. The food is so good that we're willing to endure the torture. Or - as one very prescient reviewer on Yelp says: "there have been times that I've tried to stay away (because of the problems with the service), but it's just so good, I can't! It's like a bad relationship... the abuse hurts, but making up just tastes so good!" Brands are taught to remove as much friction as possible, but when you think about it (and, I mean really think about it), when the product is superior, you're not only willing to let everything else go, you're willing to endure actual pain. That's the power of having a product that does more than simply doing what it's supposed to do. As miserable of an experience that I have when I go there, the food overcomes every other aspect of the friction. There's a lesson there for every Marketer: you can (literally) let everything else fall by the wayside when you have something unique (a non-commodity) that people want (and don't care what else they have to go through). Amazingly, some brands do have their very own Steve Jobs reality distortion field.
I bet you thought this Blog post was going to be about Apple, didn't you?