To Create a Great Customer Experience, Throw Out a Customer or Two

This post previously appeared on Mark Hurst’s blog, Good Experience. It is reprinted by permission.

Not long ago, a moviegoer was escorted out of a theater in Austin, Texas. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has a policy of no talking and no texting. But even after two warnings, the customer persisted in texting during a movie. Out she went.

In a blog post called She texted. We kicked her out, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League explains:

When we adopted our strict no-talking policy back in 1997 we knew we were going to alienate some of our patrons. That was the plan. If you can’t change your behavior and be quiet (or unilluminated) during a movie, then we don’t want you at our venue. Follow our rules, or get out and don’t come back until you can.

That’s one of the most pro-customer experience posts I’ve seen in a while. Because this theater is willing to filter out some customers it doesn’t want, it creates a much better experience for the customers who stay.

Or to put it another way: if you really love your customers, you’ll be willing to point them elsewhere, if the relationship just isn’t working.

The Alamo Drafthouse put it in even starker terms by creating this video containing a voice mail left by the offending (and, apparently, offended) customer. The cinema clearly enjoys emphasizing the benefit of its customer experience: watch movies here without distractions from other customers.

How might you apply this case study to your own business, organization, team, or project?

If you’re at an agency or other service firm, tell prospective clients that you’ll be happy to point them to competitors if they’d be a better fit. (We do this all the time at my customer experience firm Creative Good, telling prospective clients that we’ll point them to whichever company we think might help them best, whether it’s Creative Good or not.)

If you’re creating an app for the Web or mobile devices, be clear about the key benefit you’re creating in the customer experience. Instead of trying to create an app that does everything for everyone, focus on that benefit – even though some of your prospects will then go to competing apps. (Example here is my to-do app Good Todo, which is super-simple and thus not for everyone.)

If you’re a professor, health care professional, cinema owner, or otherwise creating an in-person experience, be clear with yourself—and your students/patients/customers—about what you’re offering, and what your expectations are of them. (If they shouldn’t text during the movie, say so, and enforce it!) Whatever experience you promise, be sure to deliver on it. Integrity matters.

And there are other examples. Do you have clearly stated benefits and expectations in the customer experience you create? Post them in the comments below.

(P.S. See also Phil Terry’s calculation of how many rude moviegoers there are in the U.S.)

About this Gun

Mark Hurst

Mark Hurst

founded the customer experience firm Creative Good, runs the Gel conference every spring, and wrote the book "Bit Literacy." Follow @markhurst.