CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: The Roller Coaster Ride


The customer experience often resembles a roller coaster ride—taking us up and down hills, twists and turns, and even upside down or sideways. Read any number of customer experience blogs or articles, and you’ll see this recurring theme. In order to earn customer loyalty and referrals, you must consistently exceed the customer’s expectations—give them the ride of their life—every time!

But how realistic is this expectation?

Does the ride (experience) become exhausting at some point for the customer – for the leasing professional? Does it ever break, need maintenance, or deserve upgrading?

While I certainly appreciate the practice of setting high expectations, especially as a customer myself, the bottom line is there are the occasional fails in the process.

I am sure you have been there. You set your expectations too high and you end up with the “Gee, I wasn’t expecting that!” moment—it’s not always pleasant. Then just as you are about to throw up your hands, the ride takes a quick turn and the thrill begins once again.

Every day residents are riding the customer experience roller coaster at their apartment community. A great resident experience is  built around a series of “moments of truth” during their interactions with your leasing staff and onsite team. Those on the front line, the persons residents primarily come in contact with, are expected to help them and deliver a pleasant experience.

But it doesn’t always work out that way even with the best of intentions. Everyone on your team has the ability to make a positive impact on the customer experience, improve resident retention, and in help turn a bad experience around to a positive direction.


Tired, but excited to continue our vacation, my family left Oklahoma City at 6 p.m. one Saturday heading for Kansas. Our destination? The Kansas State Fair. Are we from Kansas? No. Do we have relatives that live in Kansas? No. But it was the 100 Year Anniversary of the Kansas State Fair and we wanted to be a part of the historic experience. We spent the night in a hotel and arrived at the fair gates the next morning anticipating a great family experience full of wonderful memories.  As we approached the ticket area and saw a very long line I turned to my husband, smiled, and said, “Aren’t you glad I purchased our tickets in advance AND saved us time and money?


My smile soon became a frown when I realized that the short line was the general admission area and the long line was the advance purchase line. We were daunted initially. But our expectations for the enjoyment of this experience were high enough to carry us through a temporary setback.

It turned the root cause of the long line was that the advance purchase ticket envelopes were placed in boxes in random order—rather than being alphabetized. Employees were digging through box after box trying to locate tickets already paid for by hundreds of customers. It was a customer service disaster and everyone in line was frustrated and angry. I was extremely disappointed and so were our children.

The line hardly budged after what seemed like ages. Then we were all sent to the administration office, which was about a half-mile into the fair grounds. We were told that they would “take care of us”.  My low expectations started to climb once again. Lucky for us we were the first to arrive there—but lucky turned out not to be the best way to describe it.

Although the employees there proudly wore their Customer Service badges, they showed no sense of urgency and provided no apology for the poor customer experience we had been subjected to so far. In fact, it was as if they wanted the CUSTOMERS to feel sorry for them. We waited 45 minutes for them to put a basic ticket package together for us—no thank you for waiting—no concessions—nothing!


Exhausted and frustrated with no expectations for anything resembling satisfactory service, we began to walk down the midway. A worker called us over to play a game that required you to throw a baseball and break a record. “Only two breaks and the huge stuffed animal is yours,” he said. Instead of running in the other direction we let our oldest son try his chance at it. He hit the record on his first throw—we were all shocked! My husband broke the second one and our son walked away with the biggest stuffed chili pepper I had ever seen. He was absolutely beaming with pride and excitement. The worker immediately used our big win to market his game to other customers. “Look what this little kid just won! You can do it too!” Almost instantly he had a line of customers who wanted to try their luck. It was like something out of a movie!

As we continued down the midway another worker called us over to play his game. This time we just knew the game was over his head. To our surprise he actually encouraged our son not to play the game, knowing that it would just leave him disappointed. He kindly pointed us to a section of games that would be more suitable for someone our son’s age. We were shocked!

The service and attention that we received from these two gentlemen and later from the lady at the lemonade stand far exceeded the service that we received from those wearing a “customer service” name tag. Did that make all the negatives disappear from memory? No. But it certainly helped to diffuse much of our disappointment and put a smile back on our children’s faces—for that we were grateful.

I can’t say we would ever visit the Kansas State Fair again.  Would we recommend it to our family and friends? Not sure. But then again, I’m not sure that we won’t. If I received a  survey in the mail asking about my experience, I would no doubt make it clear where I stand—and those employees who contributed to the positive parts of our experience will be given recognition by me. My hope is that recognition is passed on by their employer to them as well.

Do your employees understand the role they play in the customer experience?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

-Maria Lawson

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