What makes a customer's experience with a brand great? What makes it awful?

Think back to your own experiences. When were you wowed with an experience or, conversely, deeply disappointed?

I had a "wow" customer experience when the bulb in my car's brake light burned out. I dreaded having to take my car into the shop, and on a whim stopped at the nearby Shell station to see if they could replace it.

The no-nonsense mechanic, with a bushy mustache and grease-smeared uniform, took a look. Quietly and efficiently, he replaced the bulb in just minutes. I had neglected to ask him how much this service would cost. To my surprise, he charged me only $11 and change.

My reaction? Wow! I will definitely consider this Shell station for car tune-ups, and now buy my gasoline there as well.

At the other extreme, I had a miserable experience at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I received a notice in the mail that I had to go in person to the DMV office to renew my license. Fortunately, I was able to make an appointment ahead of time.

When I arrived at the DMV on a Saturday morning, I couldn't believe the crowds of irritable people waiting there. One woman in line in front of me started swearing at the hapless and weary customer service representative, who had clearly seen and heard it all before. Even though I had an appointment, I still had to wait 30 minutes to be served.

Once I met face-to-face with a service rep, the process went smoothly. But while waiting, I heard numerous people complain about how long they had been there, some for more than four hours.

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Suzanne Taylor is a marketing strategy consultant. Contact her via staylor@serrano.com or visit www.suzannetaylor.com