I want us to ruminate on a Cobb Salad this Foodie Friday. It’s one of my favorite dishes and if I see it on a menu while I’m out for lunch there is a reasonably good chance that will be what I order. That’s exactly what I did yesterday and the “cobb salad” that showed up raised a business point in my mind.
Unless they’re designated by some special qualifier such as “Crab Cobb”, any Cobb Salad has the same basic components. The “EAT COBB” mnemonic can be used to remember them – egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon, and blue cheese. These items are generally diced and placed on a bed of greens. The dressing is usually a basic vinaigrette but I’ve had great versions with other dressings. The point is that when I order a Cobb, my expectation is that I will get the aforementioned pieces combined into a delicious whole. As I read the description of yesterday’s Cobb on the menu, there was nothing that dissuaded me from that opinion.
What showed up, however, bore little resemblance to what was described or to my expectations. Black olives? Well, that’s an infrequent variation. Half a chicken breast pretty much in one piece? Two red onion rings? No, my friends, this impostor in Cobb clothing was NOT at all what I expected, which is the business point. Every customer interaction comes with expectations. They might be very specific as was the case with the salad or they might be more general – attentive, responsive service, for example. Part of our job in providing value as we solve customer problems is to understand and to exceed whatever those expectations might be. Ignoring those expectations can result in a bad customer experience.
Yesterday’s lunch was perfectly pleasant and had the thing I ordered been just called something other than a Cobb there wouldn’t have been an issue in my mind (nor would I have ordered it). Setting expectations that go unmet is bad business. Like my salad yesterday, it leaves customers unfulfilled, which is not a formula for repeat business.