Chapter Four

Truth Number 4: You Must Manage Your Customers

Customers who can’t decide what to order at McDonald’s make the fast food less fast for everyone behind them. Airline passengers threaten on-time arrivals when they block the aisles while boarding. If a consulting firm’s clients describe their needs in vague terms, they undermine the value of the advice they get. Even if it’s just by showing up late for a dinner reservation (or by lingering over the espresso), restaurant patrons regularly disrupt their experience and the experience of other diners.

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the special role that customers often play in service encounters, a phenomenon we call the customer-operator. When it takes a customer five minutes ...

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