Is Subjectivity Killing Your Customer Service?

Over the holidays, my girlfriend and I drove from Charlotte to Raleigh to visit her family. What we encountered on our road trip was something that every traveler has to contend with – dirty bathrooms. With full bladders, we chose an interstate exit which offered a choice of four different fuel stations. We picked the one that looked the most modern in hopes of discovering that rare, road-trip find: the gas station with a clean bathroom.

Walking into the station, we noticed that the owner had a sign crudely taped to the door that said restrooms were not for public use. Only “paying” customers could have access to the bathrooms.

Accepting this ‘must-buy-something-in-the-store’ condition, we walked in, used the filthy facilities (the women’s room neither had toilet paper nor soap), purchased a Starbucks Frappuccino, a very burnt tasting coffee and vowed to never return again.

I wish this gas station would hire me for a marketing consultation. I would transform this business to a level of success, once believed to be unimaginable. In fact, my client would change the way the competition does business just to remain competitive.

My input would result in lines queuing off the exit ramp as if there was a gas shortage.

How would I do this? I would satisfy the pain point of travelers. Provide a clean bathroom.  Not just a clean bathroom, but AMAZINGLY clean bathrooms that are designed for high volume and easy maintenance. I would advertise these amazingly clean bathrooms to the masses, exclaiming to every traveler on the interstate of just how clean they are.


Many human beings share two commonalities regardless of race, culture or beliefs. As a worldwide collective whole, humans wish to be treated well and use a clean bathroom. Why aren't businesses able to meet these basic needs?

Human beings share two commonalities (outside of food, safety and shelter) regardless of race, culture or beliefs. As a worldwide collective whole, humans wish to be treated well and use a clean bathroom. Why aren’t businesses able to meet these two basic needs?

How Can a Simple Concept Be Missed? Subjectivity

Creating a competitive advantage often requires looking at something (which is right in front of us) from a different perspective…the customer’s. Business owners / managers who spend more than 40 hours a week at their operation often don’t see glaring issues that are obvious to the end-user.

In the case of dirty bathrooms, subjectivity has set in for both the business owner and the customer. Travelers have been conditioned to accept poorly-maintained bathrooms because subjective business owners have forgotten the importance of keeping them clean. Travelers are more surprised when encountering a spotless facility than they are an unsanitary one.

9 Steps to Exceeding the Expectations of Customers

 1. Identify. Identify every customer point of interaction with the business.

 2. Evaluate.  Answer the question, “Are we providing 5 star service at each point of interaction?” If you’re not, you need to be.

 3. Gather Feedback.  Poll your customers. If possible, e-mail your customer database requesting they take a brief survey about your company. Each question in the survey should request an evaluation at each point of interaction.

 4. Listen. Listen to what your customers are saying. Don’t blow the feedback off as trivial. This feedback is critical to a business’ survival. Make appropriate changes based on the feedback.

 5. Set Goals.  In order to exceed the expectations of your customers, a measurable goal must be set for everyone in the company to work towards and achieve.

6. Measure. Create a statistic that charts progress based on the new goals.

 7. Recognize – Recognize pain points employees endure when trying to deliver excellent service. Make it as easy as possible for your staff to amaze the customer. Also, identify team members who are unable to deliver the level of service management requires. Try to coach employees wherever possible, but be ready to remove team members who do not buy-in.

8. Establish Culture – Delivering amazing service does not happen by simply announcing “Let’s give better service!” Employees need to be happy in order to deliver great service consistently. Establish core values with employee input and hold the company to that standard from the CEO down.

9. Communicate. Communicate and over-communicate. Give as much feedback to employees as possible. People wish to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and will take more pride in their work if they know their contribution makes a difference. Praise publicly and always punish privately.

Powerful marketing focuses on how a customer feels about a company. Exceed the expectations of your customers to gain the advantage in your marketplace.

About James

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.


General Service Marketing



  • Aladdinmarzouk

    Dear James, I Totally
    respect your blog post and Agree with it.

    The nine steps you gave
    us to exceed the expectations of the customers were in the right order, Identify
    - Evaluate – Gather Feedback – Listen – Set Goals – Measure – Recognize
    - Establish Culture – Communicate.

    You just gave everyone the precious nine steps on how to handle
    customers/employees in order to make a successful business and with this
    valuable information, anyone can easily create a successful business if
    followed correctly with the right planning sheet.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • Connie Joyner

    I agree, “Aladdinmarzouk”. These are “spot on” poinys of delivering great customer service! I’m in decision mode for a “prime the pump” (ice breaker) for a professional learning meeting this week. These points are definitely in line with what I had in mind to use along with “identifying your personal branding” and what will you “proclaim” in support services this year. Thanks, James, for the great find from your shared posts! An amazing year to you and all the readers in this group!

  • Jackie Lan

    Before making this every day encounter into a lengthy discussion about great customer service, you need to be clear of one thing: is this gas station part of a franchise or is it just a home owned business.

    If it is just a lone gas station owned by a guy who only want to earn a living, there’s no need for him to do anything outstanding, seriously. No traveler would ever remember to come back again even if he made the bathroom as shinny as that of a 5-star hotel. No traveler would stay on the road for another 30 minutes or more to find another gas station if his bladder’s gonna explode. You may not come back again, yes, but does it really matter? There’d be plenty of travelers going to that gas station every day, not knowing the condition of the bathroom.

    So, there’s a pre-condition to your arguement: the gas station is owned by a franchise. If not, it’s very possible to get a low ROI implementing your plan.

    “Why aren’t businesses able to meet these two basic needs?” I don’t think you tried to answer the question but to elaborate into your vision. Is this not subjectivity either?

  • Debbie Kline

    Appreciated your article. Subjectivity encompasses so much, as you stated. Maybe this person didn’t hire enough people to maintain both the retail and maintenance aspects of his business. Maybe the person isn’t happy as you said and could care less if the stalls are clean and supplied. It would take someone coming in to ask. I however, feel your pain and have been known, more than once, to repair an unflushable toilet while traveling with a bread tie and a paperclip.