Why Good Is a Four-Letter Word

Feb 28

Why Good Is a Four-Letter Word

One of my favorite sayings from my time in advertising is the quote attributed to Jay Chiat: “Good enough is not enough.” Today, that maxim is more true than ever, and not just in advertising, but in every facet of business.

Customer expectations are now liquid. They slosh over from one category or industry to another. Your customers do not give you a pass because you’re a small biz. Or because you’re B2B. Or in higher ed. Or healthcare. Or financial services. Or because you’re family owned. Or in a boring industry.

The greatest companies in the world are teaching your customers what is possible, and they will come to expect the same from you and your business, sooner rather than later.


The greatest companies in the world are teaching your customers what is possible.
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Every company must continuously strive to get better, faster, and more human.

I just finished my new book, Talk Triggers, written with my good friend Daniel Lemin. (The book will be out October 2. Go to TalkTriggers.com, please, to get alerts.) It’s all about word of mouth and its capacity to build businesses. One of the examples we include in the book is Enterprise rental cars. For many years, their key differentiator was, “We’ll pick you up.” They mentioned it in every commercial to make certain consumers knew they offered this extra service.

Now, Enterprise doesn’t talk about that. Why? Because in the era of Lyft and Uber, being given a ride by your rental car company seems pointless, or not particularly special.

Customer expectations will continue to ratchet up, and there isn’t anything you can do about it other than continue to try to stay in front of them.

The truth is that what passed for a terrific email marketing program, or guest relations program, or new customer orientation program, or video blog in 2014 is commonplace today. It wasn’t that long ago that Amazon popularized free shipping and very recent that Zappos pioneered free two-way shipping. Now? Both are almost universally anticipated by customers.

Customer experience, customer service, and word of mouth are never DONE. You just reach a particular checkpoint, catch your breath, and then push forward to the next checkpoint on the pathway of heightened consumer expectations.

Exceptional brands understand that the customer experience finish line is a mirage, and are constantly upping their game. I witnessed this first-hand last week.

JW Marriott Takes Customer Experience to the Next Level

I stay in a LOT of hotels—somewhere around 120 nights per year for the last 12 years.

Consequently, I have uranium-level points at most places. As a result—and also because I travel a lot to give presentations, and the meeting planner sometimes tells the hotel that I am “the speaker”—it’s not uncommon for me to find a thank you note and a small snack or something when I get to my room. It’s delightful. But because it’s happened in the past, it’s not a massive surprise now.

The JW Marriott in San Antonio Hill Country understands that customer expectations rise over time, and that to continue to be memorable, and to trigger word of mouth, they have to up their own game accordingly. And they have.

The Griffin pin

When I checked in to the hotel, the front desk representative (Robyn) gave me a small, silver griffin pin. She asked me to wear it while on the property, to indicate that I was Platinum Elite status. It’s a nice pin and all. And the griffin is the logo of the JW Marriott brand. But I was a little wary about this pin-wearing gambit. It felt a little like a scene out of The Sneetches. I was curious, however, what the pin might actually accomplish, so I attached it to my sweater.

After hanging up my clothes, I took a picture from the balcony of my room, overlooking the golf course and the grounds. I posted it to Instagram.

I went down to the restaurant for dinner. Sitting at the bar, I had a nice evening. Excellent food, and a killer tequila list. Spying my pin, the bartender (Teddy) proactively gave me a free ice cream sundae. After a massive chicken quesadilla, I definitely didn’t need that, but it was a very nice gesture.

I checked Instagram on my way back up to the room, and PRESTO the resort had commented on my photo, posted just a couple hours previous, at night. Terrific responsiveness by the JW social media team!

The Instagram comment

The next morning, before my presentation to 500 owners of Tire Pros franchises, I found a personal thank you note from Robyn, who checked me in the night prior, underneath my door. Wow!

I have seen perfunctory thank you notes from a general manager. I have never seen a personal note from a front-line staff member.

I’m pretty jaded about hotels, and about customer experience in general.

And I realize that my experiences on the road are different than they are for most people due to how many points and miles I accrue, and all that.

But, it takes a lot to get me to say “these guys really have it working on all cylinders” and the JW Marriott on San Antonio did just that.

In just 12 hours, they accomplished not just one thing I didn’t expect or anticipate, but three:

  • A status indicator that made me feel special
  • A very timely social media response that made me feel special
  • A personal thank you that made me feel special

There Is No Obstacle

None of the things that happened to me at this hotel are, in a vacuum, all that extraordinary. I’d argue that any hotel—and really, almost any business—could mimic much of this. But yet, they don’t. Why?

Based on the research we conducted for Talk Triggers, it’s because most businesses believe that if they do a satisfactory job at their core product/service, that’s enough. They focus on having “good” food. Or “good” customer service. Or “good” beds.

Good enough is not enough.

Good is the minimum prerequisite required for you to remain in business.

Good does not create conversations.

Good does not turn your customers into advocates.

Good is not the goal.


Good is a four-letter word. Don’t settle for it.
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