E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Great Products Don’t Need Customer Service – “La Bicha”

Leon - La bicha 1 chalo84As you may have noticed from my social networking activities from last week, I decided to take a few days off, with the summer holidays, and head over to mainland Spain, to visit my family in León, where I was born and raised many moons ago. Although I’m from a small town nearby, this time around I decided to stay during that week in the capital, León, to do what every good tourist would do: enjoy the city. And I surely did, as you can see from the bunch of pictures I have already shared on my Google Plus profile.

This time around something really interesting happened though that I wasn’t expecting, but that it had plenty to do with Social Business and Customer Service. Yes, you know, that number #1 use case for social networking for business, basically, delighting your customers to no end with a far superiour customer experience. Regardless. In fact, while that scenario was taking place I just couldn’t help thinking about the good number of highly enlightening and educational conversations that I have been having with my good friend Esteban Kolsky on this topic, which pretty much comes to a single, rather powerful conclusion: great products, and great customer experiences, do not need customer service, nor customer support.

Indeed, while I was there in León for a few days I was capable of confirming that statement several times and I thought I would put together this blog entry over here today to relate what it was like. It all happened at Barrio Húmedo, which is a relatively small area of the old part of the city that specialises on having a bunch of rather small, or relatively small bars, where they keep serving drinks and free tapas, like in the good old days, centuries ago. A stunning place on its own, worth while a visit, for sure, if you would want to enjoy quite a differentiating experience of food & drink with a unique purpose: enjoy it to the fullest! And I am 100% certain that you would always be capable of doing that. The range of options, the wide variety of tapas, drinks and atmospheres, along with different clienteles makes up for a wonderfully immersive experience that would certainly take you back in time. Highly recommended walking out and about several times! Each of them would be even more worth it than the previous one. 

However, right in the centre of Barrio Húmedo, there is this absolutely gorgeous place called “La Bicha“, which is a rather small bar, at St. Martin’s Square, number 4, that specialises on serving one of the most delicious black puddings (or black sausages) you can taste in the city, if not in the whole of Spain. World famous, for sure, judging by the huge amount of people who kept popping in and out, waiting in massively huge queues, under an excruciating heat, for a succulent slice of home baked bread with that black pudding spread all over it. Mouthwatering altogether, to say the least. Even, right as we speak!, as I keep writing this blog post. (Excuse me for a minute while I wipe out my mouth with a hankie …)

Interestingly enough, if you look into a good number of different online spaces where plenty of people have been registering and sharing their reviews of “La Bicha” (In Spanish though, most of them), you would notice how their views and customer feedback is less than desirable for a business. In fact, some of the commentary verges on the vicious attack of what you should probably not do if you are the owner of such a business. Yes, indeed, some of the reviews are incredibly negative talking about the lack of hygiene, about the rudeness of the owner of the place, about how tiny it is, about how uncanny some of the verbiage of the owner is altogether and the list goes on and on and on.

I tell you, if I were the owner of “La Bicha”, I would be extremely worried, at best, at having such incredibly negative feedback about my place and my products. And I would be trying to do my utmost to engage with those clients to learn how I could improve the overall customer experience. Yet, if you look into those online resources, you won’t see a single reaction trying to engage on that online customer service experience. I am sure by now you may be wondering why, right? Well, in my opinion, because of a single reason that we keep taking for granted in most places and for most products: if you have got an incredibly good quality product that helps enhance the overall customer experience you don’t need anything else. Simple.

Indeed, I actually went to that bar several times during the course of just one week, all in all to taste the absolutely stunning black puddings. And I noticed how the place was, indeed, very crowded to the point where, a couple of times, people had to wait outside of the bar for over half an hour just to enter the place and then for another 20 minutes to get their drinks and blood sausages. I noticed as well how the owner is, indeed, rather peculiar, verging on acting rather rude at times, although some other folks would consider that he’s rather comical. We surely had lots of good fun with the live, public entertainment. The service just doesn’t exist. It just happens when it feels like it is your turn. It sounds all very chaotic and everything, but the thing is that everyone is hanging out there, because they know they are going to get some of the best blood sausages from León itself, if not the entire country. So clients, basically, put up with all of that knowing the reward is going to be totally worth it. Eventually, their client experience will convert itself into a delightful one when they get to taste the goods. I can certainly guarantee you that, since I was one of them, several times, and had to make use of plenty of my patience to stick around. At least, on the first time, the others, knowing what the game was, was much better to endure, but then again, the end-result was a superiour customer experience tasting some of the most delicious black puddings I have ever tried in my life. 

See? That’s where it really hit me. That’s when I realise that customer service, customer support, as some of the most popular use cases for Social Business would be a complete waste of time, resources, energy and effort if your product is of a superiour quality. You basically just don’t need it anymore. And I suspect that’s exactly what the owner of the bar knows from all along. If I have got the best blood sausages around, I probably can’t care less about what the customer service would be. You just come to enjoy the food, get a drink or two, move on. That’s exactly how it works and how despite having received such consistent negative feedback online over the course of the last couple of years, the place is packed every single day of the week for hours. Much to ponder and muse about for all of us, don’t you think?

While I was in León I just couldn’t help thinking about how there is one other business out there that I can think of that has taken the overall customer experience with their products to an obsession difficult to match by others, resulting in such a successful strategy that there is basically no competition. Yes, of course, I am talking about Apple and its wonderful products. Who would have told me that 6 years after I got my first MacBook Pro, I would be raving about a superb customer experience where their social interactions are just non-existent, and ironically enough, I don’t miss them at all. I just know that when buying one of those products I’m probably getting the best there is out there! Just like La Bicha’s black puddings.

Now we all know where Apple is at this stage, and I think the owner of La Bicha knows where his business is, probably one of the most profitable out there on that location. But what I think is also the most important lesson from these stories, at least, for me, is that social business may well not be *the* best, and only!, solution to each and every single product that aims at delighting their clients. In most cases, I have come to terms with the conclusion that if you excel with an incredibly good quality product and an imperious overall customer experience there is a probably a good reason why you may not even need to become a successful social business in the first place. Your great products will speak out for you to your customers. So do Apple’s and I am sure that if you ever drop by León’s Barrio Húmedo and check out “La Bicha” you would be probably agreeing with me that it’s *the* best blood sausage out there and you don’t need Social to taste it. You just basically go ahead and enjoy the experience, just as much as I did multiple times! 

Have a good one and cheers!

Spanish Food

PS. Oh, you may have noticed how these pictures are not even mine. I know, very weird, because over the course of the years I have developed that habit of becoming a #foodie with a camera (My iPhone 4S) every food place I go. Yet, at La Bicha I guess I was just enchanted and didn’t feel the urge to take any snap shots. Just enjoyed the experience for what it was. Unique and very very yummy!

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    1. Hi Luis! Oh, yes, it does!! And much worse, perhaps!! It’s actually quite entertaining to see the owner of the place explain why he named the bar with “La Bicha” and how expressive he is about it! Wish I would have taken a few snap shots from quotes he had hanging on the walls to describe a little bit more what it is like … Rather revealing, and no, no pun intended, either! 🙂 haha

      Next time I am around I’ll take a couple of pictures of those quotes he has got hanging on the wall, so you can see what I mean …

  1. It is interesting that your example for a product that doesn’t need customer support is food, a product which:

    1) Millions of years of evolution have prepared you to use (consume)

    2) A lifetime of enculturation has trained you to acquire

    It seems to me the better lesson from the example is, if a business owner is comfortable and has no interest in growing her business, then she can ignore “customer service” (except the parts that involve money exchange and product delivery).

  2. As I was reading through I was also wondering myself what would happen if a competitor creates a product at the same level but with good customer service in addition.
    Will people move immediately?

    Talking about food I think there is also a part of feeling , emotion and tradition in the product, so it is not that easy (would say the same for Apple…!).
    But this may be a competitive advantage in other businesses, although never the main reason to buy a product to one company in particular, as you never expect to need customer support.
    Just thinking out loud.

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