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The Quality Of the Experience Is Your Brand

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As I've mentioned many times before here on, I'm a believer that your brand is the experience your customers have with your product/service/employees/blog/whatever. One of those "things" that is important in an experience with your brand is quality.

For Father's Day, I requested a trip to one of my favorite restaurants called PF Changs. It's kind of like a chain-type Asian food restaurant. I would describe it as high-quality, not-fast-food type Chinese food.
My past experiences with PF Changs (about 4 other times over the last 5 years) have all been great, therefore I equated the brand with high-quality. I reserved trips to this restaurant for special occasions.
However, this past trip I noticed a few things. First off, I noticed that they stopped using nice white table cloths, which to me give a restaurant a touch of elegance as opposed to wood "wiped down with a wet cloth" tables. The second thing I noticed was that the portions were smaller by about 25%, I figure.
I'm going to guess in pure speculation here that the changes were made to reduce costs. Less money needing to be spent on cleaning table cloths and a reduction of portions to trim a few percentage points off the bottom line of materials. Those are guesses. I have zero facts to back them up.
To me, they quality of the experience was severely damaged. The PF Changs brand in my head is no longer a "special occasion" type of experience. The reduction in quality now makes me think of it as a place that's "ok, I guess". But I'm not going out of my way to go there anymore.
I've seen this happen many times before, and not just in restaurants. And everytime it happens to me I do the same thing. I stop evangelizing and purchasing from the brand in question.
You cannot reduce quality and expect to keep your brand intact. You're better off simply raising prices. Take a lead from companies like Jaguar. They don't "cut back" on their quality. In fact, they continue to make improvements in quality.
Do you have any examples of brands that have suffered from a quality reduction?

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  • by Cam Beck Wed Jun 20, 2007 via blog

    Jim - I had a similar experience at a different restaurant with seemingly decreased portions. I wondered at the time if this had something to do with the flack restaurants have been taking for serving too much food to a public all-too-willing to consume it. I don't have any inside information about their reasoning, but I think it's worth considering.

  • by Mona Piontkowski, Irvine, CA Wed Jun 20, 2007 via blog

    I have to agree - I noticed that the salad I've always had trouble finishing at my local Houston's is now not quite the problem. I guess the "new" shallower salad bowl might be the answer??? Took my Mercedes into the dealer this past week - the air conditioning was making this strange clicking noise. No problem, I was told by the rep, you smartly purchased the extended warranty so the whole thing would be covered. (A lesson learned from the last Mercedes that I ended up selling rather than paying $1800 for repairs on the air conditioning - and I so loved that 110,000 mile car). Anyway, to cut to the chase - I gleefully pulled away from the repair docket - no bill in hand - turned on the radio - beep, beep, beep - this annoying beep eminated from the dashboard they had removed to repair the air conditioning. Rather than turn back I used my trusty cell to call my rep - he was on a another call - left a message - two days later he called me back. Must be the phone in the car - I have no phone in the car I told him. Then I have no idea he told me - better make another appointment to get it fixed....Mercedes used to bend over backwards to service the coffee, free carwashes, and even free manicures at my call you back when I get a chance and we screwed up --- too bad come back in. I guess quality is not job 1 at Mercedes anymore - who did they merge with again?????

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Jun 20, 2007 via blog

    Jim, it makes me wonder whether PF Changs conducted any market research before making these decisions. If their customers indicated that they preferred a bit less food rather than pay more for it, then it makes sense. If they did this arbitrarily, then it may wind up being a big faux pas on their part. One way or another, customers wind up paying more regardless. Whether the price per dish costs more, or you need to order more dishes to feed your party with smaller portions, it all comes down to rising consumer costs. If PF Changs is smart, they would ask their customers which way they want to 'swallow' the increase.

  • by Jim Kukral Wed Jun 20, 2007 via blog

    @Elaine, they never asked me! :) Let's forget restaurants and portion sizes. Can anyone else give examples of a reduction in quality in some other sense?

  • by Dusan Vrban Tue Jun 26, 2007 via blog

    Can you remember any brand that has not done that? I can't. :-) The problem is that in every company life there comes some financial CEO that wants to satisfy the needs of some investors: Short-time profit.

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