Most companies make good marketing materials. Glossy photos, carefully worded descriptions, and expertly crafted stories all come together to create the image that no matter the product in question, it's the next best thing. But we all know that a lot of that is just spin.  There is one thing, however, that confirms to customers whether they can or should buy into the buzz: the customer experience provided by the company making the product.  When the experience is top notch, so is the product. When it leaves something to be desired, so does the product.

My favorite bakery/cafe, for example, was simply the best. No matter the time of day when I went there, the staff was happy, alert, and friendly. They not only welcomed the diners, they relished our presence. Everything from the carefully-plated delicious creations that made each of us feel as though we were eating something beautiful enough to be seen in top culinary magazines, to the little freebies one might get when something arrived just out of the oven, to the personal acknowledgement from the artisan chef made visitors like me feel we were partaking in something top notch every bite of the way. Their savory foods were perfectly seasoned, their breads always fresh, and their pastries both delightful to look at and to consume. And unlike most of the other high-end places of the same type, the staff members were also encouraged to be genuine themselves, from their banter with customers to the piercings they sported. From the instant I walked in the door, both people and products communicated pride and confidence.

Then the owner sold the business, and when I went back after the change of hands, the first thing I noticed was that the personnel was different. They did their jobs, but not with gusto.  They simply served and moved on to the next customer.  When I sat down to eat my lunch, the first bite of the sandwich I had ordered so often underwhelmed me entirely. The components were the same, but the experience wasn't.  The flavors were slightly faded. The bread, a few hours older.  It tasted like the phantom of the product that I was used to. Ditto with the dessert. Delivered to my table in what I can only describe as a robotic and disengaged way, what was once the most light and airy of creams, perfectly filling up delightfully flaky pastry, had also become a lesser version of its former self.  Like the atmosphere in the cafe itself, the cream had become heavier, and less appetizing.

I went back a few more times, hoping that it was just an off day or transition pains, but sadly it was not.  The diminished customer experience had accurately communicated the decline of the products as well. Employees are excited to promote a good product or service and it shows in every way. Conversely, they are reluctant to get behind a questionable or bad product. When product quality diminishes, great employees tend to run for the hills--which is why constantly ensuring that the customer experience is done right is indeed the best predictor of your product quality as well.