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At the Movies – A Lesson in Customer Service

A month ago, my husband and I went to see “Iron Man 2”. Halfway through the movie, the projector in the theater began having some technical issues, and after about five minutes, the movie stopped playing completely. Frustrating, but at least it wasn’t during a particularly action-packed or climactic part of the movie, and the movie was playing perfectly again in less than three minutes. 

After the movie, as we exited the theater, we were greeted by a supervisor. He apologized for the interruption to our movie and handed us complimentary tickets that we could use for any movie we wanted at any time. That was so unexpected to me, but a gesture that I’ve told everyone about. 

As I got to thinking about it, this was a great customer service move by the management at the movie theater. Sure, it cost them money to give everyone in the theater a free ticket, but they successfully turned a negative transaction into a positive transaction for their customers (at least in my mind). This probably saved the theater money in the long-run! An article I read recently supports this; it found that negative critical incidents can lead to declining satisfaction and altered purchasing behavior over time, even for long-term customers. This is because negative incidents cause customers to reflect on and reconsider the relationship with the company in a way they may not if it is “business as usual”. Therefore, managers should be on the lookout for customers who have recently experienced a negative event and should strive to resolve it in a positive manner.

In the case of the movie theater, a minor irritation was turned into a gesture that let me know I was a valued customer and subsequently increased my satisfaction with my experience.   The manager definitely took the right steps to increase the loyalty of his customers. Would your company handle a negative incident in a similar way?

Jessica Gregory, Director, Marketing Sciences

Reference: van Doorn, Jenny and Peter C. Verhoef (2008). “Critical Incidents and the Impact of Satisfaction on Customer Share," Journal of Marketing, Vol. 72 (July 2008), pgs. 123-142.

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