Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Unchained America: Customer Service RIP?

The photo is of Taylor's diner in Independence, Oregon on the occasion of its closing in November 2006 - not because it wasn't profitable but because the newest Taylor generation have careers elsewhere. It's reproduced here courtesy of Dave Gorman who, last night, presented the first UK showing of his tremendous new film Unchained America documenting his attempt to cross the USA coast to coast in a 1970 Torino station-wagon while patronising only independent hotels, restaurants and gas stations. "Paying Mom & Pop and not The Man."

This romantic quest was inspired by his revulsion at the homogenous experience of touring the US as a performer that prompted a desire to find the true independent spirit of America. In doing so, he has created a lovely film about the changing face of small-town America that is filled with the humour you'd expect, but also with innumerable quiet insights into business and customer service - as was the Q & A session that followed the screening.

For me, one of his most telling remarks was that his hated corporate America experience had not been bad per se. Indeed it had been entirely acceptable and that was the problem. Think about it. When it comes to customer service, acceptable is such damning praise.

The essence of authenticity/experience/service is not mere consistency, it's much deeper than that.

1) It's about respooling till rolls from the 50s and sewing together typewriter ribbons because you can no longer get spare parts for your ancient but perfect cash register (paying attention to the small details that have huge impact).

2) It's about the people, not what they sell (there are always people - they may be virtual, but they are there in every business and they are who your customers remember).

3) It's about making the effort to make a difference (and realising that the customer notices when it happens because it makes a human connection).

It was suggested last night that such a journey could not even be attempted in ten years time, but the lessons of the film are timeless. If you can, make sure you see it.

(If you're not in the UK, I can only direct you here).


Blogger Mark McGuinness said...

Dave must be beside himself with excitement this morning - word has no doubt got round that a feature on this blog = guaranteed box-office smash + showers of awards!

No wonder he let you use his picture.

1:04 AM, January 23, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

I naturally mentioned that while negotiating my cut but still ended up with a round number settlement!

4:03 AM, January 23, 2008  
Blogger Charles Edward Frith said...

I've been telling folks that this blog is acceptable.

10:21 PM, January 23, 2008  
Blogger john dodds said...

But uttered from the mouth of the Huggy Bear of Adland it has a much hipper connotation! Ta.

1:52 AM, January 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You know John, here is my list of preferences in design:

1. Good design
2. Bad design
3. Indifferent design - LACK of design.

The last is by far the most offensive. At least bad design has something to say - some content. Something not to like.

I see parallels in that outrage that I feel for someone thinking I will passively accept a nothing and your picture of 'just acceptable'.

I could go on with a service delivery example from the workshop of a ski boot maker that I was in yesterday but this French keyboard is doing ,y nut?

12:50 PM, January 24, 2008  

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