"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten".

This is such a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin, clearly a man who understood consumer behavior in a way that many companies today struggle to grasp. There are so many lessons to be learned from this quote, not just for us as customers but also for those of us who run businesses.

The world is changing. While we are all able to shop around and find good prices, we are also becoming much more aware that a lower price doesn't necessarily mean we are going to be happy.

We all know the frustration of dealing with a business that has lousy systems, poor order processing, terrible customer service and even worse after sales service. And these issues apply as much to face-to-face sales as they do with online sales.

A little while back I went on line to buy a camera lens that I needed for an overseas trip. The lowest price was from an online store that took my money and sent me an order confirmation. I didn't think anything more about it until two weeks later I received an email to say they didn't have the item in stock and they couldn't get me the lens for another eight weeks. I was leaving in four days. I went to my local camera store and gladly paid more, vowing that in the future I would not waste my time with the online store.

I have the same issue with an online bookstore. The advertise that they can get the book within a certain number of days, I place the order, only to receive an email a few days later saying it will be several weeks before the book will arrive.


These practices are frustrating but not illegal. They push us to more 'certain' ways of buying what we need. I'm sure anyone reading this has his or her own share of horror stories about what started out to be a great deal ended up becoming a nightmare.

So why am I talking about this? Well, we need to make sure we are not one of the businesses that are part of the problem. The best way to do that is to not be the cheapest. Now, this opens a whole can of worms, but I strongly believe we are living in a world where people are prepared to pay for quality, simply because we've have all experienced the issue that Benjamin Franklin mentions.

Or the other alternative is to be the cheapest and deliver the best service and the best product, but that rarely seems to happen.

People are prepared to pay for quality, but they are very vocal and very empowered to be able to share their experience when they are let down. This is one of the reasons larger customer based organizations are so focused on dealing with social media issues so quickly. And why someone getting dragged off an airplane is enough to cost an organization billions of dollars in lost share value, lets alone the direct cost of lost business, law suits, etc.

Regardless of where we sit in the price range, consumers are becoming all about the experience. We have to deliver, whether someone is spending one dollar with us or one million dollars with us and I strongly believe this is going to become increasingly important in the coming years.

This means that the business with the best customer experience wins. It's not about price anymore. And that changes everything. Our conversations with our teams need to be about experience. We need to be engaging our customers in our experience planning. Everything we do needs to be focused on doing everything in our power to make the experience of buying from us the very best it can possibly be, and that is a giant task that few organizations are up for.

Of course "experience" can mean many things to many people, and that again is a good thing. It is so much more than nice service, it's about really understanding what's important to your customers and then making sure their experience, when they buy from you, exceeds their expectations in whatever way matters.

We need to include topics like social responsibility, eco-responsibility, community, technology, individuality, gamification, storytelling, connection and much more when we talk customer experience. And that is very exciting.

The upside, if you're one of those businesses that get just how important this is and what an extraordinary opportunity it presents, the next decade is yours. This concept applies to every industry, some more than others, but it is without a doubt one of the major shifts in the world of consumerism (as well as business to business I might add).

Published on: Jun 22, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.