The Microwave Theory

The Microwave Theory

When Businesses Offer Services That Can’t Be Maintained

This is a story that I have told at almost every Pinot’s Palette Boot Camp, and it helps explain why we offer services that we excel at and not others.

A young and aspiring pre-made sandwich shop concept began to receive requests from their customers to offer more in the restaurant. Since the company didn’t want to be seen as a non-customer friendly establishment, they decided to add the customer request that was the easiest…a microwave. The microwave was to be used to heat the sandwiches by the customers so they could enjoy their purchased food at a temperature of their choosing before leaving the premises. Things were going great, everyone was happy, but as with everything that is added to a business offering and not maintained, the condition of the microwave began to decline. The once bright color of the interior started to fade from daily use. There wasn’t a clean and crisp smell any longer, the uncovered food created stains and added an unsavory odor. The text on each button became worn and illegible. The door wouldn’t close correctly. As you can imagine, the customers complained about the microwave, and some regulars even stopped patronizing the sandwich shop. When people described the shop to their friends, the microwave entered the conversation as something to avoid. The owner of the business decided that enough was enough and it was time for the microwave to go.

The smell, yellow color, and stain on the business were gone. Unfortunately, the microwave had set a standard that the customers had become accustomed to, and without it the service wasn’t seen to be as valuable. Some customers started to think that the pre-assembled food wasn’t worth the cost, and others started to request discounts because the microwave was no longer available. As you can imagine, more customers were lost.

This type of situation comes up all the time, for all businesses. As owners we must step back and decide if the benefit to our customers is greater than time and cost of the enhancement. In the example of the microwave theory, the correct way to measure the time and cost would be to account for the equipment, equipment replacement, cleaning time and materials, power consumption, visual solution (looking nice), and more.

The moral of the story is, if you are going to add to the customer’s experience it needs to be an enhancement that can be managed and maintained long term. You don’t want to lose customers based on a secondary offering.

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