It’s one of those blind taste tests – Costa Coffee did it, Pepsi did it. And everyone finds that 7 out of ten prefer the promoting brand…

So why does Coke still outsell Pepsi? Were Pepsi skewing the results? Or is it more about how people make decisions? Do they make them blindly?

Of course not. It’s not just about the product. Pepsi had to find out the hard way that it’s about the image that comes up in the customer’s mind – the idea, the concept – not just the product. Granted, you do need to have a good product, but that’s not everything. People in America were buying Coke because it represented an idea to them – Coke was baseball games and apple pie and a flag waving on the front porch and families sitting down together for a meal and having a laugh with friends and Christmas gifts and leaving out cookies for Santa. When they looked at the two cans at the grocery store, the colours and images and feelings that came when they looked at the Coke can were why they chose that one – not first the flavour when they opened it later.

Completing technically accurate accounts and tax returns is important to me and my clients, but it’s not the image my clients have of me. It should be about how they feel when we meet, or ring up, email, letter – communicate. And it’s the same whatever you do. It’s about the customer journey – how they feel. Do they feel happy, relaxed, at ease, confident in you? Because they should – at every part of the customer journey – from initial contact right through the experience. You can have produced the best, more accurately machined, shiniest widget – you could be so proud (rightly) of your technical ability, so you think your clients should be too – but if they see untidy, late, uncommunicative – they get a different impression. And they won’t buy. The difference between good technician and good business person is a whole new subject!

Here’s another story – Scandinavian Airline Systems were awful at customer service (I’ve flown them) and were losing money hand over fist in the 70s and 80s. The new CEO instigated what is now called a Coffee Stain Survey. They found that if the passengers, when they flipped the tray in the seat back in front of them found a coffee stain, they assumed that the engines hadn’t been serviced properly. They reasoned that if the airline couldn’t even be bothered to clean the trays, they may not look too hard at more important things.

Do your own Coffee Stain Survey. Walk the customer journey. And have a free eBook – Customer Care – Why Bother? It’s on the website – It’s your lifeblood.